Palestinians watch as an Israeli soldier patrols near the West Bank City of Hebron
Palestinians watch as an Israeli soldier patrols near the West Bank City of Hebron Reuters

Israel has banned a British-based charity, which is a partner of the UN Refugee Agency and European Commission, accusing it of funnelling cash to the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), founded in 1984 and with headquarters in Birmingham was declared an "unauthorised association" by defence minister Moshe Yaalon. He signed a decree empowering Israeli authorities to seize any funds the group might send to Palestinians in the West Bank.

The move is part of Israel's controversial crackdown on Hamas after accusing the group, which rules in the Gaza Strip, of abducting three Israeli teenagers who disappeared near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank a week ago.

"The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas's funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world," a statement from the defence ministry said. "We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel."

IRW says it has been working in the Palestinian territories (occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip) since 1994 "working to help conflict-affected communities with projects such as rehabilitating infrastructure, livelihoods recovery and an integrated care programme for traumatised children".. The charity operates in more than 30 countries, promoting economic and social development, and lists the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), among "key partners".

Hamas has denied any involvement in the disappearance of 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach. But Israel ramped up raids and arrests over the past six days, detaining 65 Palestinians, including 51 who were part of a group of 1,027 prisoners freed by Israel three years ago in return for soldier Gilad Shalit, seized by Hamas.

The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) confiscated documents and computers from five Hamas charity centres, which are considered a part of the Dawa, the organisation's civilian wing. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the latest arrests, which brought the total number of those detained to 240.

The development came after a Facebook page calling for Israelis to kill a Palestinian 'terrorist' every hour until the three Israeli teenagers are returned to their families had gathered more than 20,000 'likes' so far.