Friday, August 15, 2008

PA Raids Charities and Arrests Employees in the West Bank

Principal's office at the Beit Ummar school following Aug. 6 raid

(CPT Hebron Release)

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron calls on individuals and organizations to contact the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Interior following recent PA arbitrary arrests and raids on charities in the West Bank.

Thursday night, the Palestinian Authority arrested two employees of the Beit Ummar Orphans Care Society, and the Israeli Occupation Forces arrested five board members of the organization.

These arrests come after Palestinian security services raided four charities and two printing houses in the Hebron area on Aug. 6. The security forces raided the “Mujama’ Islami” Headquarters in El-Thahiriya, the Islamic Cultural Center in Taffouh, Benevolent Islamic Society in Beit Ula, and the orphanage in Beit Ummar, according to the Palestine Center for Human Rights.

CPT visited the Beit Ummar Orphans Care Society on Aug. 13 and documented the destruction following the raid. (See video here.) According to a volunteer with the orphanage, 45 soldiers entered the building armed with guns and teargas. The soldiers proceeded to confiscate all files and computers, including every computer in the school’s computer lab. They also locked the doors to the orphanage’s kitchen and food storehouse. When one employee asked to see a written order authorizing the raid, he was beaten with an electric rod. Another employee was also beaten, and no order was produced.

Empty computer lab following the raid

The raid was carried out “in a savage way,” the volunteer said. “Even the Israeli soldiers do not treat the employees like this,” he added.

The orphanage had been previously targeted by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA froze the society’s bank accounts four months ago, and Israeli forces had arrested two employees, including the chief of the orphanage. The PA and Israel have accused the organization of both funding Hamas and receiving funds from Hamas, though they have failed to produce evidence of this connection.

“For the first time since 2000 we cannot pay for the orphans and employees,” said the volunteer.

The Beit Ummar Orphans Care Society was established in 1999 and serves about 1000 needy families in addition to 200 orphans. The orphanage also operates a school and kindergarten, which has 250 students up to grade 4. Most of the land and the building costs were donated by Beit Ummar residents.

The Palestinian Authority relies on international aid, especially from the EU and United States, to fund its security services. At a conference in Berlin on June 24, donors committed $240 million to strengthening Palestinian security forces. Prior to that conference, the United States had committed $60 million to training and assisting the security forces.

CPT urges individuals and organizations to contact the Palestinian Authority about these raids and arrests.

Fadwa Shaer at the Ministry of Interior, Dir.-Gen Licensing Department
Palestine (02 240 9242); US (011 972 2 240 9242); Europe (00 972 2 240 9272)

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