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Palestinian president blasts Israeli shutdown of seven NGOs in occupied West Bank as ‘totally rejected’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A picture of the premises of the Palestinian NGO Women’s Union building in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah after it was raided by Israeli forces, on August 18, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has strongly criticized the Israeli army’s recent shutdown of seven Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations in the occupied West Bank as “totally unacceptable and rejected”.

Abbas made the remarks in a meeting with representatives of the disbanded NGOs in Ramallah on Saturday, Palestine's official Wafa news agency reported.

The organizations will continue to expose Israeli occupation and crimes against Palestinian people, he stated.

“We must all stand together and confront this Israeli policy, which persists on implementing unilateral measures in disregard of all agreements signed between the two sides and in violation of the international law,” the Palestinian president said.

“We will not accept the continuation of such a policy. We will protect the rights of our people in light of the international inaction towards the ongoing Israeli crimes against Palestinian nation, their sanctities and their land,” he pointed out.

Abbas added that the Palestinian authority is reaching out to relevant international institutions “to stop Israeli provocations against Palestinian organizations that operate in accordance with international law and human rights. We thank the international condemnation of these [Israeli] attacks, but practical measures are required to stop aggressive Israeli practices.”

On Thursday, the Israeli army stormed and ordered the closure of Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh.

The organizations’ offices were ransacked and their equipment confiscated. Doors were welded shut, with an Israeli military order posted on them declaring the organizations “unlawful”.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, al-Haq rights group, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Palestine chapter of the Geneva-based Defense for Children International, and the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) are the NGOs shut down by Israel.

The closures mean that it is illegal under Israeli military law for the employees to enter their offices.

Six of the organizations raided had been designated as “terrorist” organizations in October 2021 by the Israeli regime, which claimed they were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Mazen Rantisi, head of the board of directors at the UHWC, which runs several hospitals and dozens of clinics across the occupied West Bank, said the closures are part of a longstanding Israeli policy.

“They raided our offices at dawn, broke the doors, they took documents, computers, we are still assessing what’s gone. They wrecked the place and welded the doors shut with metal,” Rantisi said.

“We found a document plastered on the door, in Hebrew only, saying that this is a closed organization, we are not allowed to enter, and no time period is specified,” he added.

“The goal is to put obstacles in the way of civil society so that it doesn’t develop, it is part of destroying Palestinian society, and to make people feel defeated,” said Rantisi highlighted.

“This will definitely impact the services we offer – but we will find a way to continue our work,” he said.

Crackdown on journalists

Meanwhile, Israeli military forces have committed 479 violations against Palestinian journalists across the occupied territories since the beginning of the current year, says a non-governmental organization representing writers, photographers, media workers and journalists.

The Palestine Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) said in a statement that the violations include the assassination of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot in the head by an Israeli sniper on May 11 while covering an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

The syndicate added that Israeli troops detained Palestinian journalists and prevented them from covering developments on at least 175 occasions.

The PJS also documented 80 cases of physical assault by the Israeli forces, and 65 cases of attacks by extremist settlers.

“The increase in the attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian journalists under the protection of the army was remarkable and growing,” It noted.

“Journalistic work in Palestine is under attack. We renew our call on relevant international and human rights organizations to take decisive actions to stop the targeting of journalists by the occupation forces,” the PJS said.

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