Palestinian rights groups have roundly condemned Israel’s recent decision to deny a Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigator a work visa, calling for an end to the regime’s crackdown on human rights activities in the occupied territories.
"The refusal reflects a larger policy of repression of human rights work by Israeli authorities through movement restrictions, arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and denial of entry,” the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) said in a statement released on Monday.
The statement further pointed to the cases of United Nations experts who have been denied entry into Israel, noting that UN officials are faced with a "shrinking space for human rights work” in occupied Palestinian territories.
"PHROC stands in solidarity with Human Rights Watch and calls for the protection of human rights work, the freedom of movement for human rights staff, and an immediate end to repression and that serves to inhibit vital human rights work in Palestine, Israel and globally,” the statement concluded.
Last week, Israeli authorities rejected a request from Human Rights Watch to grant a work permit to its New York-based Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir.
According to Shakir, Israeli authorities told HRW that the visa ban was not targeting him alone, but would be applied to all foreign members of the organization.
Earlier, Ramallah-based al-Haq human rights organization censured the Israeli regime’s decision in a separate statement, saying, "Israeli officials seek an environment devoid of criticism while disregarding their duties under international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Israel’s Interior Ministry, in a letter dated February 20, said HRW reports "have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda,” highlighting that the measure was taken on a recommendation from the Foreign Ministry.
In return, Deputy Executive Director of Program at Human Rights Watch Iain Levine said "this decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values.”
Levine added that the Israeli regime’s "efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record.”
Israeli forces injure two Palestinian minors
The developments come amid tensions between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.
On Monday, two Palestinian minors sustained gunshot wounds after Israeli military forces raided Shuafat refugee camp in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
Local sources said dozens of Israeli police officers stormed the camp and ransacked several stores, prompting young men and teenagers to engage in clashes with them.
Israeli forces then used excessive amounts of tear gas and indiscriminately fired rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the crowd.
As a result, a teenage schoolboy was struck in the chest with a rubber bullet. According to locals, Israeli soldiers kept the injured boy at a checkpoint for more than half an hour before an ambulance, followed by a military jeep, arrived at the scene, and took him to a hospital.
A 9-year-old girl was also hit in the foot and received treatment at a medical center in the camp.
Moreover, Israeli soldiers detained and violently beat up a young Palestinian man during the scuffles.
The tensions first broke out in April 2015, when Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Nearly 280 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of October that year, when the violence intensified.