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Palestinian NGO shuttered by Israel says it has resumed work

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(LONDON) — At least one of the Palestinian NGOs raided and shuttered by Israeli forces last week has already resumed work.

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, categorically denied Israel’s allegations in an interview with ABC News, describing them as “baseless.”

Al-Haq is one of the first-ever human rights organizations in the Arab world, and conducts research and prepares reports on human rights violations and advocates for the corporation of the international human rights standards in Palestinian law and policies.

“We are not a threat to anyone,” Jabarin said. “They want to send us home, but my colleagues and I have faith in what we do and will continue our work regardless of the price.”

The decades-old humanitarian group says it resumed working immediately.

Jabarin said the other NGOs have also been reopening their offices, although he stressed the difficulties some of them face.

“All the equipment in some of these offices are completely confiscated and the offices are left empty,” he said.

Israeli security services broke down the doors of seven organizations it had designated as terrorists on the morning of Aug. 18. The raids targeted the Ramallah offices of Addameer; Al-Haq; Defense for Children International-Palestine; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; the Bisan Center for Research and Development; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

In a joint statement, six NGOs condemned the raid and said the move was an attempt to hinder defending human rights.

“The orders attempt to terminate our organizations’ civil society work defending human rights, documenting Israeli violations of international law, and upholding international rule of law,” the joint statement read.

They called for the international community to “urgently intervene against Israel’s actions.”

In October 2021, Israel claimed that the organizations were linked to the Palestinian leftist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is sanctioned by both the U.S. and the EU. The group is known for its Marxist-Leninist ideology and for hijacking a number of aircraft in the 1960s and ’70s.

However, neither the U.S. nor EU, two key allies of Israel, followed suit with Israel’s designation of the NGOs as “terrorist organizations.”

When questioned about the raids Monday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. continues “to seek additional information” from Israeli authorities. Expressing concern about the raids, Price said during a press conference last week that “there must be a very high bar to take action against civil society organizations.”

“We, at the same time, have not designated any of these NGOs nor have we funded any of these groups over the years,” he added.

The EU stood with the NGOs in a statement on Monday saying the member countries are not convinced the groups are “terrorist organizations.”

“No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian civil society organizations,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement, adding Israel should “refrain from any action” that would prevent these organizations from continuing their missions.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited Al-Haq after the raid and asked the group to continue working, saying its presence in Ramallah is “legal.”

The raid on the NGOs came amid rising tensions in the region. On Aug. 14, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a bus in Jerusalem, wounding eight people. Five American citizens were among the injured.

Earlier this month, an Israeli airstrike on suspected terror targets in Gaza was followed by back-and-forth attacks with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group that left 49 Palestinians dead and more than 1,000 rockets fired toward Israel. The Israeli military claimed at least some of the Palestinians were killed by errant rockets that were fired from Gaza.

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