Image source, AFPImage caption, Palestinians protest against Israel's decision to designate six Palestinian civil society groups as terror organisations

More than 100 high-profile figures, including musicians and authors, have pledged support for six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel has designated as terrorist organisations.

A statement condemns what they call the "unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders".

Israel says the groups are a front for a militant faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has carried out deadly attacks.

They strongly deny the charge.

There has been widespread criticism of the decision to outlaw the groups, which could see their offices closed and staff arrested.

  • Palestinian groups ask Israel to drop terrorist ban

The list of artists who signed the statement condemning last month's Israeli decision includes the actor Mark Ruffalo, the singer Peter Gabriel, and the author Philip Pullman.

They say the groups – al-Haq, Addameer, Defence for Children International-Palestine, Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees – are "engaged in critical human rights work".

They warn that the Israeli designation "puts at risk not just the organisations themselves, but the entire Palestinian civil society and the tens of thousands of Palestinians they serve everyday".

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has insisted that Israel and its military respect human rights and the activities of human rights organisations.

Israeli authorities have accused the six groups, which all receive foreign aid, of being "arms" of the PFLP and of obtaining financial resources to fund terrorist activity.

The PFLP, a small, left-wing faction that does not recognise the State of Israel, carried out a number of armed attacks and aircraft hijackings in the 1960s and '70s. It was also behind several suicide attacks during the second Palestinian intifada in the early 2000s.

The six rights groups have denied the Israeli accusations and challenged Israel to present its evidence.

A confidential dossier prepared by Israel for European governments is reportedly lacking concrete proof of links between the groups and the PFLP.

Last week, Mr Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid cited as proof a plea deal presented to a military court by a Spanish woman, who admitted fundraising for a Palestinian aid group called the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel banned last year for allegedly being an arm of the PFLP.

But on Wednesday the woman's lawyer accused the ministers of a "total misuse of her position", saying that she had not knowingly collected money for the PFLP and had no connections with the six designated rights groups.

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