The Palestinian civil society organizations have played a distinguished role in the Palestinian society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the time of the Ottoman regime in Palestine.
Palestine is unique in that civil society organisations predate the establishing of the national government, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
The work of civil society in Palestine forms a natural response to occupation, its policies and destructive impact on society.
Civil society provides assistance to the Palestinian people, including relief work in the agricultural, health and social fields, sponsored voluntary activities and working on political detention issues including defending victims.
Moreover, it exposed the serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law by the Israeli occupation.
Following the creation of the PNA, the number of civil society and charitable organizations operating in Palestine increased and played an important role during the second intifada.
During this time, civil society organisations played a monitoring role and/or supplemented the work of official institutions.
They have been fast in reaching victims and providing relief services, as well as providing treatment to the wounded.
At the same time, civil society continued it work in advocating for the victims of human rights violations, and reviving Palestinian popular heritage.
Recentlly, the continued deterioration of internal security and escalation of the conflict for power between Fateh and Hamas led to a wide-spread and comprehensive attack, launched by the Al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], against the offices of the security forces belonging to the PNA, and institutions affiliated or closely related to Fateh, in the Gaza Strip.
The attacks began on Tuesday 12 June 2007 at 11:20am when the Al-Qassam Brigades besieged the headquarters of the first and second brigades of the National Security forces, previously the offices of the [Israeli] civil administration, in the east of Jabalia camp.
The attacks ended in the evening of Thursday 14 June 2007 with Hamas taking control of the positions and headquarters of the security forces and the President's office.
During and after the confrontations, the offices of civil society organisations, popular and trade unions and some women's organisations working in Gaza Strip were targeted.
The damages ranged from looting of furniture and other assets, including papers and official documents and burning the organisation's premises, through to taking control of the organisations and attempting to impose new criteria on their work.
These actions not only took place in the Gaza Strip but rapidly extended to the West Bank.
Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades [an armed group affiliated to Fateh] and Fateh activists attacked civil society organisations and offices belonging to Hamas, close to it, or supervised by people close to Hamas, resulting in damage to these organizations and their assets.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights and Al-Haq jointly produced this report monitoring the recent violations against civil society organisations in the Palestinian Territory.
One of the messages of this joint report is the re-affirmation of the historical and political unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a response to the growing political divide and at a time when the Israeli occupation is imposing geographical separation.
Here, it is worth noting that the report only highlights violations against the offices of civil society organisations, popular unions, trade unions and women's and political organisations.
In the report Al-Mezan Center and Al-Haq do not address violations committed against dozens of governmental institutions, including ministries, courthouses and headquarters of security, police and national security forces.
The report highlights the violations to which civil society organisations have been subjected regardless of the perpetrators.
Both Al-Haq and Al-Mezan condemn all forms of attack against civil society organisations, in all cases, as unjustified acts that deprive Palestinians of the services offered to them by these organisations.