Israel charges Gaza World Vision head with diverting ‘millions to Hamas’


Israel on Thursday charged the Gaza director of a major international NGO with diverting millions of dollars in foreign funding to Hamas and its military wing.

The Shin Bet internal security service said $7.2 million (6.5 million euros) given to World Vision had been diverted to Hamas each year, with some of it funding the Gaza Strip rulers’ military campaign against Israel.

Mohammed Halabi was recruited by Hamas to infiltrate the aid organisation more than a decade ago, rising to become the head of World Vision’s Gaza operation, the charge sheet said.

He was arrested in June and indicted Thursday on a number of charges, including funding terror.

Shin Bet said there was no evidence that World Vision’s main office was aware of Halabi’s actions.

Since Halabi took over operations in 2010, roughly 60 percent of World Vision’s annual budget in Gaza was diverted to Hamas, including its military wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades, Shin Bet said.

This equated to $7.2 million per year, including roughly $1.5 million given in cash to Hamas combat units.

Christian charity World Vision, which employs tens of thousands of people globally, refused to comment on the allegations, saying they would release a statement in due course.

The American organisation works in conjunction with the United Nations, often implementing its projects.

It has worked in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since 1975.

A 2015 statement on World Vision’s website said they provided support to roughly 90,000 people in Gaza.

Since 2008 Israel has fought three wars in Gaza with Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Israel said the charges were proof that Hamas did not respect the independence of aid agencies.

“This money was intended for construction projects, financial aid and even food donations for Gazans in need,” Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the military body that coordinates Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza, said in a statement.

Hamas stole this money and passed it to its military wing to build bases, provide salary bonuses and dig tunnels.”

ENVELOPES OF CASH

The revelations could lead to increased pressure on foreign aid organisations and Avi Dichter, head of the Israeli parliament’s foreign and defence committee, warned foreign funders to be more careful.

“The naivet of well-meaning groups enables sophisticated Hamas terrorists to divert aid to terror infrastructures,” he said.

“These organisations and states should heed the Israeli warnings about Hamas and other terror groups’ cynical exploitation.”

In a detailed briefing on the allegations, Shin Bet said Halabi confessed to being recruited in 2004 by the Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades, Hamas’ military wing.

It said he was given a “mission to infiltrate World Vision, get ahead and reach a position of influence.”

A year later he joined the organisation, rising to be its Gaza head by 2010, Shin Bet said.

Afterwards he was able to divert money and resources to Hamas.

Shin Bet displayed a statement by Halabi admitting to having given various envelopes of cash over, with the largest containing more than $50,000.

It said materials imported to Gaza under the guise of aid projects — including concrete blocks, scrap, and pipes — were diverted to Hamas, which used them to build tunnels.

Thousands of food parcels and hygiene products were also delivered directly to military commanders, they added.

Source: al-monitor.com

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