Israeli Forces invade Ramallah offices of healthwork NGO

Ramallah/PNN/

Two Palestinians were injured in clashes following the invasion of the building, during which the army seized data and smashed equipment

Israeli Forces soldiers invaded the offices of the Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP) in the small hours of November 16, ransacking the Ramallah bureau and smashing up equipment and fittings.

Around 8 armored vehicles arrived on Rukab Street, in the heart of Ramallah, circa 2AM. First blasting open the doors with explosive charges, the soldiers gutted the CCTV system before seizing hard drives, documents and video footage. During the raid they also destroyed computer equipment, smashed windows and punched holes in the walls.

In the aftermath of the invasion, tyres burned in Rukab Street and the surrounding roads. Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades, tear gas and high-velocity rubber-coated metal bullets at demonstrating youths, who responded by hurling stones. Local news sources report that two Palestinians were injured by the time the Israeli soldiers withdrew at 4.30AM.

Dr Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council as well as an ex-director of HDIP. He views the raid as part of a wider Israeli assault on Palestinian civil society.

“Over the last six months, the government has launched a huge campaign against Palestinian civil society, and even against Israeli civil society,” he explained.

Speaking amid the turmoil of the office, with broken glass underfoot and CCTV cameras dangling from frayed wires about him, Dr Barghouti cited similar attacks against television stations and other human rights organisations.

HDIP is a non-governmental organization which “advocates for better government policies on behalf of overlooked groups such as women, youth and the disabled.” It has worked with the WHO, European Community, UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank and local charities and organizations across occupied Palestine, providing educational, outreach and lobbying services.

Dr Barghouti also stated that the raid – which took place in the heart of Area A, theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – showed Israeli contempt for Palestinian self-rule.

The invasion fell on the night after the 28th Palestinian ‘Independence Day’, on which Palestinians celebrate Yasser Arafat’s symbolic declaration of a Palestinian state in 1988.

“This assault clearly shows Israel has no respect for the PA,” Dr. Barghouti said. “Practically, we don’t have any authority anywhere in the West Bank. The only authority is the authority of occupation.”

More broadly, Dr Barghouti criticised the Israeli attack because the HDIP is a “non-governmental organization” that focuses on health and educational issues. “This attack is completely unjustified. It violates the rights of the Palestinian people,” he added.

Indeed, the damage the HDIP office has suffered has already brought a jarring end to a number of ongoing human rights projects, such as a health education program.

At a minimum, Dr Barghouti estimated the damage of the raid would run into “thousands of dollars.”

Nonetheless, Dr Barghouti is confident that HDIP’s staff will continue their work. He said: “this institute will not stop doing its job. Just as they failed to silence us in 2002, they will fail again now.”

This was the first invasion of the workplace, which also houses the Palestine Monitor offices, since the height of the Second Intifada in 2002. At that time, Israeli Forces occupied the offices for 6 weeks, using it as a strategic military base in the heart of the West Bank’s nominal capital.

The stairwell of the building still houses old computer equipment in dusty vitrines, smashed up by the Israeli Forces during their previous invasion.