On May 8, 2023, Israel announced that it had arrested a six-member cell from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) responsible for manufacturing and planting a bomb on a bus in the town of Beitar Illit, on March 9, 2023. Authorities named the six suspects: Mohammad Al-Barq, Wisam Owainah, Ahmed Abu Naima, Mazen Abdallah, Rami Al-Ahmar, and Nour Mahmoud – all members of the PFLP’s student organization.
Based on open-source information, NGO Monitor has determined that at least two members of the cell have ties to European-funded NGOs. Mohammad Al-Barq volunteered at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), and Wisam Owainah participated in a project organized by ActionAid. Notably, both previously expressed public support for PFLP terrorists and terrorism, an obvious indication to both the NGOs and their donors that these are terror-supporting individuals.
These links add to the approximately 50 PFLP-linked NGO board members, officials, and employees named in NGO Monitor’s February 2023 report, “Clear and Convincing: The Links between the PFLP and the European Government-funded NGO Network.”
According to the open source information, as of April 2023, Mohammad Al-Barq had been an active member at PMRS since at least December 2017. As documented by NGO Monitor, PMRS officials have participated in PFLP events, among other links.
On April 3, 2023, PMRS President Mustafa Barghouti wrote that “the prisoner volunteer Mohammad Al-Barq’s family” was honored and invited to the PMRS’ celebratory Iftar dinner, which Baraghouti himself also attended.
Al-Barq has expressed his support for terrorists and their actions on multiple occasions. For example:
- On August 23, 2021, Al-Barq shared a poster featuring Walid Hanatshe, Yasan Majamas, Samer Arbid, and Qassem Shibli – PFLP members who are accused of perpetrating the August 2019 bombing that murdered 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and injured her father and brother. Al-Barq wrote, “On August 23 we say our thanks to those who restored the memories, restored our heads high and appreciation for the most devine legacy. Long live the anniversary [of the attack].”]
- On May 11, 2021, during the conflict between Gaza-based terrorist organizations and Israel, Al-Barq shared a picture of multiple armed members of Palestinian terror groups and wrote, “This is the unity that represents us. This is the kind of unity that we long for.”
- On July 17, 2018, Al-Barq shared a photo of Leila Khaled carrying a machine gun and wrote, “Just two days ago the Saudi woman drove a car, but over 40 years ago the Palestinian woman hijacked an airplane.”
According to ActionAid, in 2021, Wisam Owainah participated in its “Civil and Democratic Participation of Palestinian Youth” program, which aims “to promote the civil and democratic participation and empowering them [youth] to influence the decision makers in the fields of democracy and recognition and claiming their rights according to International Law.”
During the program, Palestinian youths met with Amir Makhoul, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to delivering sensitive information to the Hezbollah terror group.
Supporting the PFLP
Owainah openly expressed his support for and affiliation with the PFLP terror group on numerous occasions. For example:
- On March 23, 2022, Owainah shared photos of a PFLP youth rally he had attended in support of a wanted Palestinian gunman who was killed after opening fire at Israeli forces, . During the rally, participants raised PFLP flags.
- On June 2, 2022, Owainah shared photos from the funeral of PFLP member Ayman Muheisen – killed by Israeli forces after hurling an explosive device at them. Owainah wrote, “…The martyrs are the beautiful birds of the world…they are those who love freedom the most…They [the Israelis] do not hit us to kill us, they hit us so they can kill the freedom that hides within us…”
- On May 17, 2020, Owainah shared a photo of senior PFLP member Maher Yamani and quoted him, ‘Be flexible as the songs of birds and tough as if you are going to war by yourself.’ The giant Abu Maher Yamani.”
PMRS Ties to Terrorist Organizations
This is not the first time that PMRS has been linked to terrorist organizations:
- In February 2022, PMRS President Mustafa Barghouti participated in a Hamas-organized conference, “Colonialism Will Go Down,”
- In May 2019, Mustafa Barghouti attended a memorial event organized by the PFLP. It centered on PFLP political bureau member Rabah Muhanna, who, according to information posted by the PFLP, “contributed to the establishment” of several PFLP-affiliated NGOs. The hall was decorated with PFLP paraphernalia.
- On March 27, 2019, Sajed Mizher, a “first aid volunteer” with the PMRS was killed by the Israeli security forces “during confrontations in Dheisheh refugee camp in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem.” Following his death, the PFLP claimed Mizher as its “comrade.” Mizher’s funeral procession featured many individuals wearing military gear, PFLP paraphernalia, and PFLP banners. Mizher’s body was also adorned in PFLP paraphernalia, as well as a PMRS orange reflective vest. (For more information on PMRS volunteer Mizher’s PFLP affiliation see NGO Monitor’s “Palestinian NGO Medic Killed in Bethlehem Clashes Had Ties to PFLP Terror Group” report.)
- In January 2019, Mustafa Barghouti, president of PMRS, participated in a conference organized by the PFLP titled “The crime of normalization and ways of confrontation,” which was held “in honor of the 11th anniversary of the departure of its founder, Dr. George Habash.” During the conference, Barghotui presented a paper on “The role of parties and factions in promoting the boycott concept.”
Since 2020, PMRS has received funding from Italy, the EU, Sweden, the UN, and France.
- In 2022, Italy granted $3,853,485 to the World Health Organization for a project with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).
- In 2020-2022, PMRS was an implementing partner on a €1.1 million project funded by the European Union for “Safeguarding Palestinians living in east Jerusalem lives and their livelihoods.” Other partners include Ma’an Development Center, Palestinian Vision Organisation, and Treatment & Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture.
- In 2020-2021, Sweden granted $2.3 million to PMRS.
- In 2021, the UN oPt Humanitarian Fund provided $649,999 in a joint grant to PMRS, Abdel Shafi Community Health Association (ACHA), and the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA).
- In 2020, PMRS received $1.5 million from UN-OCHA’s “occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund” for “Improving access to adequate health and nutritional care services for children under five and women in Access restricted areas of Gaza Strip,” “Emergency WASH intervention to improve the water supply chain in unconnected communities in Area C to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” and “Providing home care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 during home isolation and scale up COVID-19 infection prevention and control.”
- In 2018-2020, PMRS is receiveding €764,664 from France for “strengthening the resilience of Palestinian youth in East -Jerusalem and its mobilization around citizen and solidarity initiatives.”
- In 2016-2020, Sweden granted $5.3 million to PMRS.
Since 2020, South-African based ActionAid has received funding from Italy, Denmark, the EU, the UK, Australia, the UN, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
- In 2021, ActionAid International’s total income was €224.1 million; total expenses were €218.4 million, of which €2.4 million was spent on “Palestine.”
- Donors include Denmark, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Nations. (See table below for further funding information.)
- In 2018-2021, Italy granted €1,800,000 to ActionAid Palestine to “improve the economic opportunities for young people, especially women, in 8 communities of Hebron and Bethlehem Governorates.”
- In 2022, ActionAid Palestine is partnering with Ma’an Development Center on a project funded by Denmark.