PA orders Hamas-linked charities closed

Two schools for needy children, two other West Bank charities reportedly told to cease activity.

fatah in ramallah 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
fatah in ramallah 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Two schools for needy children and two other West Bank charities have been ordered closed by Palestinian intelligence agents because of suspected ties to Hamas, school staff and human rights activists said Sunday. A Palestinian Interior Ministry official said she was not aware of a formal closure order. School staff said intelligence agents delivered written notices on Thursday, but the situation remained unclear. Both Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank have been widening a crackdown on political rivals in recent weeks, rounding up dozens of activists. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Abbas in June 2007. Since then, the Abbas government has shut down scores of charities with suspected Hamas links, as part of a campaign to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. Two Palestinian human rights groups said that Palestinian security forces targeted schools in Beit Ula and Beit Ummar, two villages near the West Bank city of Hebron, late last week. The schools have a total of more than 700 students, including orphans and children from single-parent homes, staff members said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. The Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, quoting school officials, said handwritten closure orders were delivered to the schools. In Beit Ula, security agents seized three school buses, a van, computers and documents. In Beit Ummar, they took the keys of the school and locked it, school officials said. Another group, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, also said security officials broke into the two schools, run by the Islamic Charitable Association of Beit Ula and the Islamic Orphanage in Beit Ummar. The rights group said that two Hebron area charities, the Islamic Association in the village of Zahariyeh and the Islamic Cultural Center in the village of Dafouh, were also raided. The group said security agents seized equipment from the four institutions, as well as from two print shops in the Hebron area. The Islamic Charitable Association in Beit Ula is a branch of a larger Hebron association closed by IDF troops earlier this year, according to Al Haq. Fadwa Shaer, an Interior Ministry official who deals with non-governmental organizations, said she was not aware of an order to close the charities, but would look into the matter. She said she had issued a warning to the Beit Ummar school for violating funding regulations. She said some 160 NGOs have been ordered closed in the West Bank in the past year. Earlier this year, the IDF ordered several Hebron charities closed, including a boarding school for some disadvantaged children run by the Islamic Charitable Association. Troops raided a sewing workshop run by the association, but in the end did not close down the school. An administrator said the school has still not been closed despite the Palestinian Authority order, and he hoped the dispute could be resolved.