RAMALLAH: Israeli forces carried out extensive raids on foreign exchange and money transfer agencies in Ramallah and various other cities across the occupied West Bank on Thursday. The military asserted that the operation aimed to confiscate millions of dollars suspected of being earmarked for funding the Islamist group Hamas.
During the operation in the main city of Ramallah, a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinians resulted in at least one fatality and 14 injuries, as reported by the Palestinian health ministry. The Israeli military, in a statement, disclosed that the raids involved the collaboration of police, army units, and Shin Bet security personnel, leading to 21 arrests in Ramallah, Tulkarm, Jenin in the northern West Bank, and Hebron in the south.
The military statement highlighted the discovery of “terrorist funds” and the confiscation of “tens of millions of shekels, safes, documents, recording systems, and telephones” during the operation.
In a notable expansion of the operation, Israeli forces also targeted cryptographic currencies, involving the participation of a specialized cybercrimes unit in the investigation.
Several clashes erupted in different locations during the raids, prompting Israeli soldiers to open fire in response to attacks involving explosives, petrol bombs, and rocks.
In Jenin, the Israeli military reported that an aircraft fired on militants who had assaulted the troops. The increase in such raids across the West Bank followed the October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel and the subsequent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials contend that Hamas and other militant groups, including Islamic Jihad, have been extending their influence in the West Bank, garnering support and funding, notably from Iran.
The United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on Thursday indicating a “rapid deterioration” of human rights in the West Bank. Since October 7, at least 4,785 Palestinians have been arrested, with 291 killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the OHCHR.
The report also documented instances of mass arbitrary detentions, unlawful detentions, and reported cases of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees.
In response, a spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office dismissed the OHCHR report as “ridiculous” and “outrageous.” The spokesperson emphasized Israel’s security concerns in the West Bank, stating the intention to continue arrests as a measure to protect the nation.
The West Bank had already been experiencing heightened unrest for 18 months before the October 7 attack by Hamas. Peace talks facilitated by the United States aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem had broken down almost a decade ago, with prospects for revival diminishing further amidst the conflict in Gaza.