Israel shuts down NGOs, kills Palestinian in occupied West Bank

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man in Nablus and shut down the offices of seven civil society organisations.

People react next to the body of Palestinian Waseem Khalifa, who was killed by Israeli forces during clashes in a raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, August 18, 2022. [Adel Abu Nemeh/Reuters]

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – The Israeli army has shut down several Palestinian civil society organisations in the West Bank, a few hours after a Palestinian man was shot dead during armed clashes that broke out following an Israeli raid on the occupied northern West Bank city of Nablus.

The youth, who was killed on Thursday, was identified as 20-year-old Waseem Nasr Khalifa from the Balata refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus city, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Israeli forces had raided Nablus just after midnight to secure the entry of Jewish settlers to the flashpoint site of Joseph’s Tomb east of Nablus, the army said.

Heated gunfights broke out with Palestinian fighters during the raid. At least four other Palestinians were injured with live ammunition, three of whom are said to be in critical condition.

The Israeli army said Khalifa was armed and shooting at soldiers, a claim Palestinians deny.

[Translation: Waseem Nasr Khalifa, from Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, succumbed to injuries he sustained during violent confrontations in the vicinity of Joseph’s Tomb]

Separately, a large Israeli army convoy raided the town of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank at dawn on Thursday.

Israeli forces broke into and shut down the offices of seven civil society and human rights organisations.

Six of the organisations raided on Thursday had been outlawed by Israel as “terrorist” organisations in October 2021, and accused of ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

They included 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, and the Palestine chapter of the Geneva-based Defence for Children International.

The seventh organisation raided was the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC).

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

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 told Al Jazeera.

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

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

“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.

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

The Addameer prisoner rights group said on Twitter the army had left an order that declared the organisation “forcibly closed in the name of security in the region, and to combat the infrastructure of terrorism”.

“This is an astonishing attack on our needed human rights work,” the group said.

The organisations conduct critical human rights work in the occupied West Bank – including providing legal aid to detainees, documenting Israeli human rights abuses, conducting local and international advocacy, and working with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations.

The targeted groups have called for a protest in front of the Al-Haq offices in downtown Ramallah on Thursday at noon to protest the raids and the closure of their offices.

Israel’s designation of the groups in October 2021 was widely condemned by the international community and rights groups as “unjustified” and “baseless”.

No evidence was found or provided by the Israeli government to substantiate its claims surrounding the six organisations.

Source: Al Jazeera