JERUSALEM — Israel designated six major Palestinian rights watchdogs as terrorist organizations on Friday, a move that critics said would restrict the ability of Palestinian civil society to scrutinize and challenge Israeli government activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, ruled that the six groups were a front for a small leftist militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, that does not recognize the State of Israel. The group rose to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s for its hijacking of several passenger aircraft, and later claimed responsibility for suicide attacks during a Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

The six groups named were: Al Haq; Addameer; Defense For Children International-Palestine; Bisan; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

The six are variously involved in highlighting rights abuses by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as in promoting the rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, women, farmworkers and children.

including The New York Times; and have received funding from foreign countries and institutions, including the European Union.

The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the groups

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