Shrinking Palestinian Civic Space: IOF Close UAWC and Arrest UHWC General Director
Date: 07 July 2021
Time: 13:00 GMT
On Wednesday dawn, 07 July 2021, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided the Headquarter of the of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in al-Bireh City, confiscated some its contents and then ordered to close it for 6 months. Also, they arrested Shatha ‘Odeh, General-Director of the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), from her house in Ramallah and confiscated her car.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns IOF’s systematic practices against Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) in a manner that threatens their existence. PCHR hereby emphasizes that these practices are part of campaigns led by Israeli officials against Palestinian civil society organizations and activists to undermine their work, either by distorting their credibility, arresting them, or closing the organizations that provide services to promote Palestinians’ identity and resilience.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 03:30, IOF backed by military vehicles moved into Bireh City and stationed in Sateh Marhaba neighborhood. They raided and searched UAWC’s headquarter (1 floor in Sidah building) and damage its contents. Before their withdrawal, IOF closed the main door of the UAWC’s office with metal bars and fixed an order to close the office for 6 months.
Foad Abu Saif, UAWC’s Director, said to PCHR’s fieldworker that IOF managed to open the office main door with special machine, broke and damage the office contents and confiscated some of them, including hard disks and recording device of the surveillance cameras. He added that some of employees and I arrived at the UAWC’s office at approximately 08:00 and entered it via emergency exit door as the office main door was closed with metal bars and a closure order issued by the “Israel Defense Forces Commander in Judea and Samaria” was fixed on it. The closure order is valid until 06 January 2022. The order states that the closure order issued under the pretext that we work on land reclamation project in area classified as Area C.
It should be noted that UAWC is an institution working in agriculture fields and is considered one of the largest agricultural development institutions in Palestine. UAWC was founded in 1986 and it has several branches in the West Bank governorates.
Moreover, IOF arrested the UHWC’s director namely Shatha Mostafa ‘Odeh (Abu Fanona), 60), from her house in Ein Mosbah area in Ramallah and confiscated her car. Shatha’s daughter said to PCHR’s fieldworker that ‘Odeh was taken to ‘Ofer prison, west of Ramallah, noting that she suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It worth noting that on 08 March 2021, IOF raided UHWC’s headquarter in Bireh City, and closed it for 6 months. The closure order is still valid.
PCHR condemns in the strongest terms IOF’s flagrant attacks against CSOs in the West Bank and reiterates its call upon the international community and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take serious action in order to stop the Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians and the Palestinian CSOs.