Israel seizes tens of millions of shekels in Ramallah bank raid

jerusalem (jps) | Israel Defense Forces raided the West Bank city of Ramallah Wednesday morning, Feb. 25, seizing tens of millions of shekels in different currencies suspected of being linked to terror organizations.

The IDF has imposed a curfew on the area, closing down several banks in the city, including the Arab Bank and the Cairo Amman bank.

Nineteen Palestinians were reported to have been injured in clashes with troops. Three of them were in critical condition, The Associated Press reported.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz requested that the IDF coordinator of the territories check how all the funds confiscated in the Ramallah raid can be used as Palestinian humanitarian assistance.

Palestinian officials said the raid violated banking agreements and could trigger a run on the banks.

“It’s like the mafia,” Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said of the operation. “I think it should be dealt with in a very serious way.”

Israel said the raid was part of the global fight against terror funding.

“This money is the fuel for Palestinian terror, and I am convinced we have to dry up the paths for this fuel,” Mofaz said.

Troops driving jeeps, armored personnel carriers and trucks blocked off main roads in Ramallah and declared a curfew. Shop-owners were ordered to close their businesses, and residents and journalists were ordered indoors, some at gunpoint. Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel pellets to disperse dozens of stone throwers.

An IDF official said that the operation is aimed at hampering fund transfers that fuel terrorist attacks in Israel, and that money confiscated from a number of bank accounts were used to fund terror in the territories.

At the Cairo Amman Bank, soldiers confined employees to several rooms and cut off the wires of the security cameras, witnesses said.

In one case, bank employees were confined to several rooms. Troops were accompanied by computer experts of two of the banks, who had been arrested, Palestinian security officials said. Israel Radio reported that a senior bank official from the Arab Bank was also arrested during the night of Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Investigators sought transaction records of fund transfers from abroad to terror organizations, and proof of Yasser Arafat’s involvement in financing terror. They call the operation one more step in an array of operations carried out against terrorist financing.