Israel shuts down 7 offices of orgs. in W. Bank designated 'terrorist'

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced yesterday that three of them will now be defined by law as terrorist organizations.

  IDF arresting suspects in the West Bank.  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF arresting suspects in the West Bank.

During an arrest operation in the West Bank, Israeli security forces, including the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Border Police closed down seven institutions that had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Including six that Defense Minister Benny Gantz previously declared as terrorist organizations.

The Israeli forces arrested 10 terror suspects overnight, operating throughout the Judea and Samaria, Baka and Amakim Regional Divisions, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. During the operation, stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the forces, who responded with protest dispersal measures.

Last year, the Justice and Defense ministries declared that several leading Palestinian NGOs were arms of the PFLP terrorist organization.

The ministries each issued documents classifying Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) and the Union Of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) as branches of the PFLP, joining other NGOs that had also been designated as terrorist affiliates.

Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fox on Wednesday rejected the objections submitted by the first five of them against being declared terrorist organizations - Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, DCI-P and UPWC, according to Haaretz.

Al-Haq and Addameer said that security forces blocked the entrance doors to the offices with iron plates this morning and left a military order declaring them illegal, according to statements they made.

Gantz announced that three of the organizations – Addameer, the Women's Committee organization and the Bisan research institute – will now be defined by law as terrorist organizations as of Wednesday, after they did not appeal the order declaring them as terrorist organizations, according to an official statement.

After the announcement, a period was given in which appeals were possible before it became permanent in the law. The appeals submitted by the other three organizations to the Defense Ministry against their being declared terrorist organizations – Al-Haq, DCI-P and UAWC – are still being considered.

"After Israel declared the organizations as terrorist organizations, nine countries from the European Union firmly stated that Israel's claims lacked any factual basis," MK Aida Touma-Sliman said, condemning the forcible closure of the offices. 

"Despite this, Israel approved the decision to declare al-Haq, Addmeer, the "Bisan" research institute, the Women's Committee organization and the [DCI-P] as illegal organizations, closed them by force at night and confiscated equipment – all in the dead of night like thieves," she said.

The UN Human Rights Office in the West Bank said on Saturday that the reasons cited by Israel's defense minister were "vague or irrelevant," denouncing his decision as the latest move in a "long stigmatizing campaign" against the organizations, according to AP.

Last month, nine European countries published a joint statement in which they announced that they would continue to cooperate with the six organizations, citing that Israel did not present evidence that would justify the change of policy towards them.

"Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly. In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for civil society in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]. A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution," the Government of the Netherlands said in a joint statement.

The countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

Wave of arrests in the West Bank overnight

During operations in the villages of Jeva and Araba where two suspects were arrested, explosives were thrown at the Israeli security forces and gunshots were heard in the area. Three more suspects were arrested in the villages of Dora and Beit Awa.

Two wanted persons were arrested in Kalkilya. During the operation, violent clashes developed in which dozens of Palestinians threw stones and shot fireworks at the forces, who responded with protest dispersal measures.

Michael Starr, Khaled Abu Toameh, Anna Ahronheim, and Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.