Palestinian students inspect a classroom at a school destroyed during the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, on their first day of the new academic year in Gaza City, on Aug 16, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
TEL AVIV – Israel on Friday designated six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations and accused them of funneling donor aid to militants, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations.
Israel's defense ministry said the groups had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing faction with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.
The designations authorize Israeli authorities to close the groups' offices, seize their assets and arrest their staff in the West Bank, watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement
The groups include Palestinian human rights organizations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document alleged rights violations by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
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"(The) declared organizations received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations, using a variety of forgery and deceit," the defense ministry said, alleging that the money had supported PFLP's activities.
The designations authorize Israeli authorities to close the groups' offices, seize their assets and arrest their staff in the West Bank, watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement.
Addameer and another of the groups, Defense for Children International – Palestine, rejected the accusations as an "attempt to eliminate Palestinian civil society."
The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian territories said it was "alarmed" by the announcement.
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"Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work," it said, adding that some of the reasons given appeared vague or irrelevant.
"These designations are the latest development in a long stigmatizing campaign against these and other organizations, damaging their ability to deliver on their crucial work," it said.
Israel's ally the United States was not given advance warning of the move and would engage Israel for more information about the basis for the designations, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.