Israel Seizes Millions in Bank Raids Across West Bank

By Nasser Abu Bakr

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) –  Israel confiscated more than $1 million during a series of pre-dawn raids on money exchange shops and banks across the West Bank Wednesday, the latest crackdown on the beleaguered Palestinian territories.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that about NIS1 million ($1.15 million, €910,000) and JD170,000 ($240,000) were seized, along with computers and documents, during the raids, which were carried out simultaneously across the West Bank.

The operation targeted "Palestinian financial infrastructure financing terrorism" and was carried out by the army in cooperation with the Shin Beth internal security service and Israeli police, she said.

Palestinian security sources said that "millions of dollars, documents, and files were stolen" when Israeli troops raided 24 banks and money exchange shops in several towns, including Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Jenin.

According to the sources, one civilian was injured during exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Nablus, where a branch of the Jordan National Bank was apparently targeted by mistake.

Khalil Nasr, general manager for the International Division at the Jordan National Bank in Amman, said that Israeli forces stormed the two-storey Nablus branch, destroying furniture, using explosives, and confiscating the "main server" but no cash.

The Israeli West Bank military governor had said that the bank was not meant to be targeted and promised to return the server, Nasr said.

"The Israeli military governor has spoken to our manager in Palestine and apologized over the incident … and that they will return our main server within two hours," Nasr said.

The Israeli military governor told bank officials that the raid targeted money exchange shops in the area, particularly one located across the street from the Jordan National Bank.

According to Israeli security sources, the money seized from the institutions had been transferred from Syria and Iran to the headquarters of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Syria and Lebanon and from there sent to the West Bank and Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad movement was behind the last seven suicide attacks inside Israel, although the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party has not claimed responsibility for any attacks inside Israel since January 2005.

Israeli sources sad that two money exchangers were arrested after pistols and hunting rifles were found in their offices.

The raids were the latest crackdown by Israel on Palestinian targets since the Islamist Hamas movement formed a government in March.

Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization, has stopped transferring custom duties collected on goods destined to the Palestinian territories on behalf of the Palestinian government.

The European Union and the United States, which have the same classification of Hamas, froze all direct aid to the Palestinian government.

The West and Israel are demanding that the group renounce violence, recognize the Jewish state, and agree to abide by past peace deals.

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