Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.
The sources said the raids were carried out by agents belonging to Hamas’s Internal Security apparatus without court permission.
Hamas spokesmen in the Gaza Strip on Thursday refused to comment on the raids.
After conducting a thorough search of the offices of the organizations, the Hamas security agents confiscated files, documents, computers, fax machines and other equipment.
The agents also informed the managers and workers of the organizations of the Hamas government’s decision to close them down indefinitely.
The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed outrage over the raids and called on the Hamas government to open an investigation.
“Al-Mezan condemns these assaults against NGOs and views them with much concern,” the center said. “Al-Mezan calls on the Gaza government to initiate an investigation into these acts, ensure full respect of the law, and protect the right of NGOs to work freely.”
According to affidavits given to Al-Mezan by workers at the NGOs, on Monday morning Hamas security agents stormed the NGOs offices in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah.
The NGOs raid on Monday were: Sharik Youth Institution, Bonat Al-Mustaqbal (Future Builders) Society, the South Society for Women’s Health, and the Women and Children Society.
The security agents searched the offices and made a list of the equipment and other belongings.
Later in the day, Hamas policemen returned to the offices of the same NGOs and called the directors by telephone. They confiscated most of the equipment and other items, including computers, faxes, cameras, documents and reports, in addition to the keys to their doors. The security agents informed the directors that their organizations were closed. They did not provide any reasons behind this decision.
The following day [Tuesday], Hamas security men stormed the offices of another two NGOs, the Palestinian Mini Parliament and the National Reconciliation Committee. They confiscated the keys to their doors and ordered them closed.
“Al-Mezan views these assaults on NGOs and the way they were carried out without any respect for the law with great concern,” the center said in a statement. “Al-Mezan condemns them and questions their timing, which comes amid the outcry against the Israeli crime against the Freedom Flotilla.”
It said such assaults on NGOs “violate constitutional rights under Article 26 of the amended Palestinian Basic Law, which provides Palestinians the right to participate in public life, particularly by forming syndicates, unions, institutions, clubs and popular institutions.”
The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, expressed deep concern over the raids and closure of the NGO offices.
“This targeting of NGOs, including UN partner organizations, is unacceptable, violating accepted norms of a free society and harming the Palestinian people,” he said. “The de facto [Hamas] authorities must cease such repressive steps and allow the re-opening of these civil society institutions without delay.”