IDF troops in jeeps swooped down on the West Bank town of Nablus early Monday, shutting down a girls' school, a medical center and two other facilities of a Hamas-affiliated charity, witnesses said. Computers, documents, cash and furniture were seized, the witnesses said.
The IDF had no immediate comment on the Palestinian reports. But the raid appears to have been part of an intensified crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank by Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The violently Islamist Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas' forces a year ago, and neither Israel nor Abbas want that takeover reprised in the West Bank.
Three weeks ago, Israel and Palestinian militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza agreed to a truce. Although the cease-fire is limited to Gaza, confrontations between Israel and Hamas in the West Bank have already provoked Gaza militants to violate the agreement.
"We consider the Israeli decision to shut down charities that take care of families of martyrs, orphans and poor people as a moral crime," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in Gaza. "It's an inhumane act against poor sectors in the Palestinian society." He made no mention of the truce.
In recent months, IDF troops and Abbas' security forces have gone after West Bank charities, moneychangers, women's cooperatives, media outlets and schools with suspected ties to the militants.
Around 1:00 am Monday, dozens of military jeeps, two bulldozers and two trucks entered Nablus and headed for the facilities of the Solidarity charity, delivering an order to shut the facility for three years, witnesses said.
The chairman of the charity is Nablus Mayor Adli Yaish of Hamas. He has been held in prison in Israel since the military rounded up Hamas politicians after the June 2006 capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas-affiliated militans in Gaza.
'A bad sign of perceiving peace'
The troops shut down Solidarity's headquarters, as well as an elementary school for 160 girls and a sports club. "The Israelis have confiscated all computers, documents, televisions and even mobile phones, from the school," said principal Fidda Draikh. "Now we need to look for an alternative place to educate these girls. We cannot leave them without a school."
The medical center that was shuttered bears the same name as the charity but is run by a different charitable organization that was controlled by Hamas until its top administration was replaced last year by Abbas' government, said its director, Dr. Hafez al-Sadr.
Sadr said office equipment was smashed and computers, documents and about $6,000 in Israeli and Jordanian currency were seized. He said the center is not connected to Hamas.
Troops also raided Nablus offices of the Palestinian Authority's ministry of religious affairs. Israel is trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority and it was not clear why the ministry was targeted.
Sheik Hassan Hilali, a ministry official, said the Israelis "have nothing to look for here. They entered the wrong place ... It's a bad sign of how they perceive peace." Meanwhile, Palestinian gunmen fired a mortar shell at a border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday. No one was hurt in the attack on the Karni crossing, the IDF reported.
Under the June 19 ceasefire deal, Israel pledged to reopen Gaza's border crossings to allow key supplies into the territory. But it has repeatedly closed the passages since the truce went into effect in response to continued rocket and mortar fire. There was no word on how Israel would respond to Monday's mortar attack.