Israeli forces raid West Bank money exchanges

Youth killed in confrontations in Ramallah as 21 people arrested in connection with alleged funding of Palestinian militant groups

A man inspects the damage to a money exchange shop, after a raid by the Israeli army in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. AFP
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Israeli security forces raided money exchange offices in Ramallah and other cities in the occupied West Bank overnight, in what Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said was an operation against the funding of Hamas.

The overnight raids were conducted in Ramallah, Al Bireh, Hebron, Halhul, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Jericho.

A Palestinian youth was reported killed by Israeli forces in confrontations in Ramallah.

The Palestinian Monetary Authority confirmed that the headquarters of six exchange companies had been raided by Israeli forces in what it called a "heinous attack".

The raids were "a violation of all customs, laws, conventions and international agreements, and aim to undermine confidence in the Palestinian banking and financial sector", the authority said.

After the raids, Mr Gallant said Israel would declare five money exchange offices in the West Bank to be terrorist organisations due to alleged money transfers made to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza.

Israeli forces arrested 21 people in the West Bank overnight in connection with the alleged transfer of funds to Palestinian militant groups.

The Israeli military said the raids were part of a joint investigation into suspected financing of Hamas through electronic transactions and cash.

The operation involved Israel's Authority for the Prohibition of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, the Shin Bet intelligence agency, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Tax Authority, it said on X.

“As part of the joint investigation, an order was signed today by the Minister of Defence allowing an administrative seizure of the property,” it said.

Al Jazeera reported that Israeli forces “seized about $2.5 million” from three exchange shops in Ramallah and two elsewhere in the West Bank.

In one incident, Israeli forces blew up the safe of an exchange house to confiscate the funds, the Qatar-based news outlet reported.

It said fierce clashes broke out in Al Manara Square in central Ramallah after Israeli vehicles entered at about 1am.

A Palestinian youth was killed and 14 other people were injured, after they were shot by Israeli forces during confrontations near Al Manara roundabout at dawn on Thursday, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

Violence has flared across the West Bank, with more than 312 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or settlers since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7, the Health Ministry said.

Six people were killed in an Israeli operation in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, the ministry said. The army also struck the Nur Shams camp from the air, earlier this week.

A UN report issued on Thursday said the human rights situation in the West Bank was rapidly deteriorating and urged Israel to “end unlawful killings” against the Palestinian population.

“The use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” UN rights chief Volker Turk said.

'A nightmare of their own'

At least 83 children have been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the past 12 weeks, with more than 576 injured, Unicef said on Thursday.

The figure is more than double the number of children killed in 2022.

“As the world watches on in horror at the situation in the Gaza Strip, children in the West Bank are experiencing a nightmare of their own,” said Adele Khodr, Unicef’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Living with a near-constant feeling of fear and grief is, sadly, all too common for children affected.

“Many children report that fear has become a part of their daily life, with many scared even walking to school or playing outside due to the threat of shootings and other conflict-related violence.

“Grave violations against children, in particular killing and maiming, are unacceptable.

Children in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, “must not fade into the background”, she said.

Updated: December 28, 2023, 2:20 PM