Israel's terror designation of six Palestinian human rights groups "is a further erosion of civic and humanitarian space" in the Palestinian territories, the United Nations' development and humanitarian agencies and a group representing more than 80 international NGOs said on Tuesday.
The joint statement, issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, hailed the Palestinian organizations' work over the years and urged Israel to provide evidence to support its claims that the NGOs – Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees – are somehow involved in or financially support terrorist activities.
The Israeli decision "stands to significantly constrain the work of the six organizations which have worked with the international community, including the UN, for decades, providing essential services to countless Palestinians," the statement read.
On Sunday, the commander of the IDF’s Central Command issued an order declaring the NGOs terrorist organizations, in an extension of Defense Minister Benny Gantz's announcement that permits the army to arrest employees on suspicion of membership in a terror group, raid offices and confiscate equipment.
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The move effectively rendered the six groups unable to operate in the West Bank.
”Counter-terrorism legislation must be in accordance with obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, which include full respect for the rights to freedom of association and expression," the UN statement stressed. "It cannot be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian work."
"These allegations are taken very seriously. To date, none of the UN agencies nor Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) organizations have received written documentation which could serve as a basis for the allegations”, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings said. She added that “we will continue to engage with all relevant partners for more information.”