US expresses concern over Israel's closure of Palestinian NGOs

Several rights groups had their doors welded shut and equipment confiscated

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The US State Department has expressed concern over the closure of several NGOs in Ramallah after Israeli forces raided them, welded shut some of the doors to their offices and confiscated equipment.

“We have reached out to the Israeli government, including at senior levels, including here from Washington, as well as from our embassy in Jerusalem, for more information regarding the basis for these closures,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Several civil society and human rights groups were the targets of the raids in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.

Many NGOs shared pictures and videos of soldiers removing computers and equipment from their offices. Some also showed the doors to their offices had been welded shut.

“They destroyed office equipment, confiscated materials,” said the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which was also subjected to the raids.

Independent human rights group Al Haq said Israeli forces disabled the cameras inside their offices, searched the group's files and broke doors.

Israeli soldiers stop a funeral procession at a checkpoint leading out of the Palestinian village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. AFP

Global rights group Defence for Children International said Israeli forces had “raided and sealed shut our Ramallah area office early this morning, leaving a notice taped to the door ordering the office closed”.

A note left on the organisation's door called the group “illegal”, it said.

Mr Price said the Washington had emphasised the importance of allowing civil society organisations to continue their work in the West Bank and Israel.

“We have conveyed the message that there must be a very high bar to take action against civil society organisations,” he said.

Israel told the US that a “high bar” was met before it took action against the groups and said that it would share information regarding the closures.

“We will form a conclusion on the basis of that information,” Mr Price said.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the groups were operating “under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to further the goals of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organisation to strengthen the organisation and to recruit operatives”.

Updated: August 19, 2022, 7:50 AM