Current and Former NGO Employees Arrested as Part of PFLP-Terror Cell
On December 19, 2019, the Israel Security Agency (Shabak) announced it had uncovered a 50-person terror network, operated in the West Bank by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a designated terrorist organization in the EU, the US, Canada, and Israel. The Shabak published pictures of weapons, and bomb making materials confiscated during these raids.
The statement named several leading PFLP figures, several of whom currently or previously worked for European funded, PFLP-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Similarly, several of these organizations work closely and/or receive funding from UN agencies.
According the the Shabak, the following individuals are key members of PFLP terror operations in the West Bank:
- Samer Arbid (UAWC): According to Israeli security officials, on August 23, 2019, Samer Arbid commanded a PFLP terror cell that carried out a bombing against Israeli civilians, murdering 17-year old Rina Shnerb, and injuring her father and brother. According to the Shabak, Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device.
- Walid Hanatsheh (HWC): Alleged leader of PFLP “military” operations, who commanded Arbid. According to an Israeli media report, Hanatsheh bankrolled the August 23 bombing.
- Abdel Razeq Farraj (UAWC): According to his indictment, authorized the August 23, 2019 bombing.
- Itiraf Hajaj (Rimawi) (Bisan): According to the Shabak, responsible for PFLP clandestine operations.
- Khalida Jarrar (former VP of Addameer): According her indictment, heads the PFLP in the West Bank since June 2016.
Critically, the NGOs that employed these terrorists receive taxpayer funding from Europe and elsewhere. Several of the alleged terrorists worked as financial directors, or accountants for these NGOs; as such, they had access to – or even controlled –their group’s finances and were involved in raising and directing funds.
The governments of Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Spain (numerous municipalities), as well as the European Commission and UN-OCHA have all provided funds to the terror-tied NGOs where these terrorists worked over the past two years (see below for details).
Current and Former NGO Employees and Terror Ties
According to Arabic-language media, Arbid worked as the accountant of the PFLP-affiliated NGO Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)1 at the time of his September 2019 arrest.2 Similarly, according to an October 2, 2019 Facebook post from the “Palestine and Israel” office of the German organization Medico, “With deep concern we had to observe the arrest of Samer Al-Arbeed, who is working for our partner organisation UAWC.” In 2016, according to the PFLP-tied NGO Samidoun, Arbid was the “financial director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the West Bank”.
Previously, the PFLP-tied NGO Addameer’s website listed Arbid as its accountant for several years.
Alleged involvement in terror:
- According to Israeli security officials, on August 23, 2019, Samer Arbid commanded a PFLP terror cell that carried out a bombing against Israeli civilians, murdering 17-year old Rina Shnerb, and injuring her father and brother. According to the indictment, Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device. A December 18, 2019 article in the Jerusalem Post notes that according to the Shabak, “Arbid prepared the explosive device and detonated it when he saw the Shnerb family approaching the spring.”
- According to Arbid’s indictment, Arbid was indicted on 21 counts in Israeli military court. His alleged crimes include:
- Premeditated causing of death
- Planting an explosive
- Multiple counts of premeditated attempt to cause death. These include involvement in shooting attacks against civilian buses and private vehicles, as well as the August 23, 2019 bomb attack in which Rena Schnerb was murdered.
- Illegal possession of weapons.
- Weapons trafficking.
- Membership in an illegal organization.
- According to Arbid’s indictment, Arbid was indicted on 21 counts in Israeli military court. His alleged crimes include:
- According to UAWC, Arbid was placed in administrative detention on December 24, 2015. According to Samidoun, Arbid “was ordered to an additional three months’ administrative detention” on March 12, 2016.
- Samidoun reported that Arbid was arrested on September 23, 2013 and placed in administrative detention.
- In an Addameer-produced video from April 2013, Arbid describes his numerous arrests. He states that he was arrested at the beginning of 2003 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, and served an additional year in administrative detention.
- According to Samidoun, Arbid was placed in administrative detention from March 2007 to August 2008.
An October 2019 HWC article refers to Hanatseh as its “Financial and Administrative director.”3 According to the website of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), in December 2019 he was listed as a member of the board of directors, under the name Waleed Abu Ras.
Alleged involvement in terror:
- According to Palestinian media reports, Israel arrested Waleed Hanatsheh on October 3, 2019. According to his indictment, Hanatsheh was indicted on 14 counts in the Israeli military court. His alleged crimes include:
- Membership in an illegal organization
- Holding a position in an illegal organization
- Possession of weapons, including assault rifles
- Weapons trafficking
- Multiple counts of premeditated attempts to cause death. These include involvement in shooting attacks against civilian buses and private vehicles, as well as the August 23, 2019 bomb attack in which Rena Schnerb was murdered.
- According to Addameer, Hanatsheh was arrested and placed in administrative detention by Israel between May 2002- December 2005, January 2009- January 2010, and November 2011-August 2012.
- In his answer to a 2012 parliamentary question at the Israeli Knesset, the Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) referred to the HWC “finance manager” as “a senior activist in the PFLP terrorist organization… [Who] was involved prior to his arrest in activities that endanger the security of the region and the public.”
- In 2005, during Israeli High Court deliberations, Hanatsheh was defined as “a senior activist in the PFLP.” The Court further cites security sources indicating that “the status of the respondent [Hanatsheh] in the hierarchy and the risk that he will be integrated into a senior position in military activity in the PFLP is significant” [HCJ 6845/05] (emphasis added).
Abdul Razeq Farraj
According to Farraj’s LinkedIn profile, Farraj is the “Administrative Manager at Union of Agricultural work Committees.” An August 2018 Amnesty International document titled “Urgent Action” refers to him as the “Finance and Administration Director” at UAWC. He is also seen in a March 21, 2019 photo at a UAWC event, along with July 30, 2019 photos from a similar UAWC gathering.
Alleged involvement in terror:
- Farraj was arrested on October 23, 2019 and indicted on 4 counts in Israeli military court. His alleged crimes include:
- Holding a position in an illegal organization. This allegedly included responsibility for recruiting new members into the PFLP. Under this count, the indictment notes that Samer Arbid informed Farraj about “attacks and attempted attacks” carried out by the terror cell that he led, as well as details pertaining to its weapons and explosives.
- Aiding an attempt to cause death in connection to the August 23 bombing.
- According to Addameer and Amnesty International, Farraj spent 1985-1991, in “an Israeli prison after being convicted of affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
- According to Amnesty International, Farraj was released from prison in July 2018 after spending 14 months (from May 2017) in administrative detention.
- According to Addameer, Farraj was also in administrative detention from May 30, 1994-February 1, 1996; April 9, 2002 – July 28, 2006; January 12, 2009 – October 6, 2009; November 27, 2011 – July 20, 2012; and February 25, 2014 until at least October 2015.
Rimawi is referred to as the Bisan Center’s director in a September 23, 2019 article in Arabic-language media.4 A July 2016 Samidoun article also refers to him as the “Executive Director for the Bisan Center for Research & Development.” According to the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Rimawai serves as the organization’s director of the Ramallah office.
Alleged involvement in terror:
- On September, 23, 2019, the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music reported that Israeli security forces arrested Rimawi.
- According to a 2016 High Court of Justice decision, Rimawi is referred to as a “PFLP member” who “posed a security threat” (on file with NGO Monitor).5
- Samidoun reports that he was also arrested on September 14, 2014 and that Bisan issued a “statement condemning the detention of their director.”
- According to Samidoun, in 1995-2014, Rimawi “was arrested five times previously – held for two months in 1995, for over a year in 1996, and in 2000 and 2003 he spent 6 months and 4 months, respectively, in administrative detention without charge or trial. In 2008, once again he was held in administrative detention for over a year before his release on October 7, 2009.”
- During his detention in 2008, an Israeli military judge affirmed that “Eteraf was active in political activities related to the PFLP.” According to Addameer, “On 23/9/2014 judge Durani confirmed the administrative detention order in Ofer military court at a judicial review hearing stating: ‘Eteraf Rimawi is an activist in an illegal organization and is active within his area of residence along with others that are currently in detention. Eteraf was arrested a number of times and he is back to his previous actions.’” According to Addameer, the judge added that “I reached a conclusion that forces me to confirm the administrative detention order because of the danger the detainee poses.” (emphases added)
Khalida Jarrar served as vice-chairperson of the PFLP-affiliated NGO Addameer, until 2017.6 In addition, Khalida Jarrar attended the 2019 and 2016 HWC general assembly. She is also seen being interviewed at Addameer’s offices in a 2019 video.
Alleged involvement in terror:
- Jarrar was arrested on October 31, 2019 on suspicions of “involvement in terror activity.” On December 18, 2019, it was revealed that Jarrar has “emerged as the head of the PFLP in the West Bank and responsible for all the organization’s activities” (emphasis added). According to her indictment:
- Jarrar was indicted on one count of holding a position in an illegal organization, dating back to June 2016.
- The indictment discusses how she, Hanatsheh (above), and Farraj (below) divided their responsibilities. Jarrar was responsible for political and national activities, Hanatsheh for terror, and Farraj for organizational development and recruitment.
- Jarrar was kept abreast of the work of her colleagues. The trio had multiple meetings in which they updated each other on their activities, dating back to 2014.
- According to Addameer, Jarrar was arrested in July 2017 and placed in administrative detention. According to Addameer, her detention was extended multiple times until she was released on February 28, 2019.
- Jarrar was administratively detained on April 1, 2015 by Israeli security forces and on April 15, 2015 she was indicted for various offenses including active membership in a terrorist organization (the PFLP) and inciting violence through a call to kidnap Israeli soldiers to be used as “bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners.”
- Jarrar accepted a plea bargain and was reportedly convicted on “one count of belonging to an illegal organization and another of incitement” receiving a 15- month prison sentence with an additional 10-month suspended sentence. According to an article in Haaretz, “The court noted that Jarrar was not being tried for being a member of the Palestinian parliament but rather for her activity in the PFLP.”
Note: The identities of the majority of the 50-person terror network have not been made public. On November 13, 2019, Israeli authorities arrested another NGO official, Ubai Aboudi, Executive Director of Bisan Center for Research & Development. According to Arab media, on November 18, Aboudi was sentenced to four months of administrative detention. Furthermore, in Abdul Razeq Farraj’s indictment, Aboudi is referred to a PFLP member who met with Farraj in September 2019 where Farraj told Aboudi to recruit more members to the cell.
According to the Israeli MFA, “Ubay Fahmi Basil Aboudi” was arrested in 2005:
“Yusuf George Daoud Kila, 27, a PFLP terrorist from Bir Zeit, was arrested on 11 February 2005 in a joint IDF-ISA operation in the wake of the arrests of PFLP terrorists Nadel Muhammad Yusuf Abu Alma and Ubay Fahmi Basil Aboudi on 9 January and 20 January, respectively. Kila admitted that the three, under the guidance of senior PFLP terrorist Bashar Latif Aref Hanani, had planned to perpetrate a terrorist attack at the IDF Armored Corps Museum at Latrun, using two suicide terrorists and a car bomb… Ubay was to have transported the would-be suicide bombers.
The cell members also admitted to planning to perpetrate a shooting attack against an IDF jeep on the Ramallah bypass road, seize the soldiers’ weapons and abduct the bodies.” (emphases added).
Government Funding Details:
- In 2019, UAWC received €1.7 million from the Netherlands; €2.6 million in 2018; and €3.8 million in 2017.
- In 2019, UAWC received €232,000 from France (AFD) for a project “irrigation and collective management of water resources for improving living conditions of Palestinian farmers in Hebron, in the Palestinian territories,” with the French group Experts Solidaires. The French L’Agence de l’Eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse (AERMC) is also providing €203,440 to this project.
- In 2019-2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) provides UAWC with €400,000 for “Improving the economic situation of vulnerable farmers.”
- In 2018, UAWC received €25,848 from Oxfam Solidarité (Belgium), €241,471 from Organizzazione Per Lo Sviluppo Globale Di Comunita’ In Paesi Extraeuropei Onlus (Italy), €527,102 from Associazione Di Cooperazione E Solidarieta (Italy), and NOK 13,155,986 from Norwegian People’s Aid (Norway).
- In 2018, UAWC received $400,000 from Oxfam Novib (occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund) for “urgent support for the most vulnerable families in Gaza Strip.”7
- In 2018, UAWC, Jazoor, Hayat Center, and the Ministry of Health received $1.3 million from Médecins du Monde France to “Reinforce the access to quality medical, mental and psychosocial emergency response” in Gaza.8 Of this, $968,915 was provided by Germany and $400,000 from the UN’s “occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund.”
- In 2017-2021, Belgium (DGD) is providing Viva Salud (formerly Third World Health Aid/ Médecine pour le Tiers Monde/ Geneeskunde voor de Derde Wereld) with €762,101 for two projects: “Youth organizations, movements and communities are better represented in the Palestinian social movement to defend the right to health of the Palestinian population from West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip” and “Palestinian social movement advocates for Palestinians’ right to health through networks vis a vis local and international stakeholders.” HWC is listed as one of Viva Salud’s two partners (the other being UHWC).
- In 2017, Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; SIDA) pledged $3.7 million to HWC for a 2017-2020 “Reproductive health care program.” In 2017-2019, $3.2 million had already been transferred to this program.
- In 2017, the European Commission granted €699,236 to five Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including HWC, as well as a Spanish group for a project “Strengthening Community Resilience and Social Cohesion in East Jerusalem on Both Sides of the Separation Wall.” Four of the Palestinian grantees, HWC, Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), and Bisan Center for Research and Development (Bisan) have reported ties to the PFLP.
- In 2017, HWC received $109,756 from UNOCHA’s “occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund” for “Sustaining the Provision of Essential Health Services by Health Work Committees to the Most Vulnerable Communities in the south governorate of the West Bank.”
- In 2014-2018, Spain (Basque region) provided HWC and its Spanish NGO partners with €592,337 (see here, here, and here for project details). In addition, in 2015-2018, the Basque region provided UPWC and it Spanish partner with €800,764 for “strengthening community resistance and Palestinian social cohesion in east Jerusalem” as part of the Kanan project, which is dedicated to strengthening “the social and political participation channels of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem through enhancing the capacity of the youth.” It is implemented by six NGOs, including HWC, UPWC, DCI-P, Alternative Information Center (AIC), and Bisan.
- In 2017, the European Commission granted €699,236 to a Spanish group and five Palestinian NGOs – Bisan, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Mundubat, Health Work Committees, Land Research Center, and the Union of Palestinian Work Committees – for “strengthening community resilience and social cohesion in East Jerusalem on both sides of the Separation Wall.”
- In 2015-2018, the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation (AVCD) provided the Spanish NGO Mundubat €640,610 for “strengthening community resistance and Palestinian social cohesion in east Jerusalem.” The project, which lists the PFLP-affiliated NGO Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees as a local partner, is part of the Kanan project, a project dedicated to strengthening “the social and political participation channels of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem through enhancing the capacity of the youth.”
- The Kanan project is implemented by six NGOs, including UPWC, DCI-P, Alternative Information Center (AIC), Bisan, and HWC, all of which have ties to the PFLP terrorist organization.
- In 2014-2017, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) provided approximately €1.6 million to the Italian NGO Vento di Terra (VdT) for “Strengthening and networking of educational and psychosocial support services for minors and women in marginal areas of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.” Local partners included Bisan.
- Belgium (Directorate-General for Development Cooperation; DGD) provides funding to the Belgian NGO Solidarité Socialiste for its projects in West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Until 2016, Bisan was listed as a partner of Solidarité Socialiste. Bisan notes that is has been a Solidarité Socialiste partner since 2003. The same year, DGD provided Solidarité Socialiste with €368,474 for its project in the “Palestinian territory.”
While the NGOs do not publish funding details, data from donor governments provides the following partial information:
Government Funding to Addameer
|Switzerland||Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation||2020||CHF 135,763|
|Norway||Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs||2016-2015||NOK 1,800,000|
|SODePAZ via Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa||2016-2018||€81,248|
|Municipality of Barcelone||2017||€162,712|
|Autonomous community of Navarre||2020||€120,000|
|Municipality of Vitoria-Gasteiz||2016-2017||€68,332|
|Municipality of Rivas-Vaciamadrid||2016||€22,630|
|Municipality of San Sebastián||2020-2022||€48,477|
*Addameer noted Heinrich Böll’s support for its 2016 publication “In the Shadow of the 2014 Gaza War: Imprisonment of Jerusalem’s Children”
Funding to Addameer Based on the UN’s Financial Tracking Service
|Addameer, B’Tselem, DCI Palestine, Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, War Child Holland||Japan||UNICEF||2017||$114,144||Informing humanitarian programmatic and advocacy response through documentation of grave violations against children affected by armed conflict|
|DCI Palestine, War Child Holland, Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, Addameer, B’Tselem||UNICEF||UNICEF||2016||$205,028||Informing humanitarian programmatic and advocacy response through documentation of grave violations against children affected by armed conflict.|
Government Funding to UAWC
|Government||Donor||Direct vs. Indirect Funding||Year(s)||Amount|
|Italy||Associazione Di Cooperazione E Solidarieta||Indirect||2018-2021||€527,102|
|Organizzazione Per Lo Sviluppo Globale Di Comunita’ In Paesi Extraeuropei Onlus||Indirect||2018-2020||€241,471|
|Netherlands||Ministry of Foreign Affairs||Direct||2019||€1.67 million|
|Norway||Norwegian People’s Aid||Indirect||2018||NOK 13,155,986|
Funding to UAWC Based on the UN’s Financial Tracking Service
|UAWC||Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||Oxfam Novib||2018||$400,000||Urgent support for the most vulnerable families in Gaza Strip.|
|ACAD, RWDS, Deir Al Balah Wadi as Salqa Al Walaa Association, Khan Younis Abassan Al Kabira, Future House Association, Khan Younis Khuzaa, Qaa Al Qurain Association, Khan Younis Al Fukhari, Maryam Al Azraa, Rafah, UWAC, PARC||Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||Première Urgence Internationale||2018||$300,000||Protect fragile livelihoods of farmers affected by the Great March of Return in the access restricted area (ARA) through urgent livelihood support to restore their agricultural production capacity.|
|UAWC, Juzoor, Hayat Center, MOH||Germany||Médecins du Monde France||2018||$968,915|
|Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||$400,000|
|UAWC||Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||2017||$248,941||The provision of rehabilitation for the open field land in Gaza strip|
|UAWC||Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||2017||$230,585||Emergency support for greenhouse and poultry farmers to overcome the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip|
Government Funding to HWC
|Government||Funder||Direct vs. Indirect Funding||Year(s)||Total|
|European Union||European Neighborhood Instrument||Direct||2017|
|Spain||Basque Agency for Development Cooperation (AVCD)||Direct||2014-2016||€514,837|
|Al Quds Association||2017||€7,750|
|Municipality of San Sebastián||2018||€11,630|
|Sweden||Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)||Direct||2018||$1,265,765|
|Individuell Människohjälp||Indirect||2017||SEK 743,948|
Funding to HWC Based on the UN’s Financial Tracking Service
|Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund||2017||$109,756||Sustaining the Provision of Essential Health Services by Health Work Committees to the Most Vulnerable Communities in the south governorate of the West Bank|
- According to Fatah, UAWC is a PFLP-affiliate. Additionally, a USAID-engaged audit also identifies UAWC as a PFLP-affiliate.
- According to photos posted on UAWC’s Facebook in March 2019, his attendance at UAWC’s 2018 annual assembly, and an October 3, 2019 Alaraby article.
- On June 9, 2015, Israel’s Defense Minister declared that “the group of people or institutions or association known as the ‘Union of Health Work Committees-Jerusalem [HWC]’…or any other name that this association will be known by, including all of its factions and any branch, center, committee or group of this association is an unauthorized association, as defined by the Defense Regulations” (emphasis added, p.6489). In 2016, the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ-3923/15), stated that “according to established information, an activity was carried out in the facility by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organization under the umbrella of an organization called the ‘Union of Health Work Committees-Jerusalem’[Health Work Committees], which later was also declared a terrorist organization” (emphasis added).
- A doctoral dissertation authored by Sbeih Sbeih and published by the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines notes that “some [NGOs], because of their link to PFLP, opposed the Oslo Accords. Such was the case of Bisan.” The same dissertation refers to Izzat Abdulhadi, a former director of Bisan, as a PFLP member.
- According to Fatah, Addameer is an affiliate of the PFLP. Several of Addameer’s current and former employees, as well as lawyers that work for Addameer, have links to the PFLP.
- OPT-18/ER/115921 (found on fts.unocha.org and on file with NGO Monitor).
- OPT-18/H/115137 (found on fts.unocha.org and on file with NGO Monitor).