Britain ‘concerned’ by Israeli raids on Palestinian human rights groups

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The aftermath of an Israeli raid on the office of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees - Shutterstock
The aftermath of an Israeli raid on the office of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees - Shutterstock

Britain has expressed “concern” over a series of Israeli raids on Palestinian human rights groups which Israel claims support terrorism, as soldiers sealed entrance doors to offices and broke down the door of an Anglican church.

The raids were carried out in the West Bank and targeted, among other NGOs, the Al-Haq advocacy group which documents human rights violations by Israeli troops.

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, said Israeli forces “came, blew up the door, got inside, and messed with the files”. His staff were checking whether any documents had been confiscated, he added.

The Palestinian rights groups have all strongly denied any links with terrorism while Israel has provided little evidence to back up its claim. The European Union has also rejected Israel’s accusations, saying there is insufficient evidence.

According to Israel, the NGOs have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-wing movement with both a political and armed wing. The latter has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis. Last year Israel outlawed the NGOs over an alleged connection to PFLP, which they deny.

The other groups reportedly raided include Addameer, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.

Palestinian authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (centre) meets with the heads of the six civil society organisations whose offices were raided by Israeli forces - Shutterstock
Palestinian authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (centre) meets with the heads of the six civil society organisations whose offices were raided by Israeli forces - Shutterstock
Activists hang a banner outside the Palestinian Al-Haq Foundation in Ramallah after Israel raided and closed their office - AFP
Activists hang a banner outside the Palestinian Al-Haq Foundation in Ramallah after Israel raided and closed their office - AFP

On Thursday, the UK Foreign Office issued a statement which said it was “concerned” by the case, a relatively rare remark that is usually used in the context of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“We are concerned by the Israeli government’s decision to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organisations. The evidence which forms the basis for this decision is a matter for the government of Israel. The UK maintains its own criteria for designation,” a spokesman said.

Troops raiding Al-Haq’s office broke through a door leading to the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church compound, which rents the office space to the group, according to its rector, Rev Fadi Diab.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemned what it said was a “flagrant attack” on the compound, saying the Al-Haq office had its own separate entrance.

Mary Lawlor, the UN’s rapporteur on human rights defenders, described the raids as “extremely worrying.”

The Telegraph approached the Israel Defence Forces for comment but did not immediately receive a response.