Jerusalem: An Israeli court has charged the Gaza director of the World Vision non-governmental organisation with passing millions of dollars to the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas and its armed wing.
Mohammed al-Halabi was alleged to have diverted USD 7.2 million (6.5 million euros) each year since 2010, with some of it funding the Gaza Strip rulers’ military campaign against Israel, said the Shin Bet internal security agency.
Halabi, who was born in 1978, was arrested in June and indicted yesterday on a number of charges, including funding “terror”.
The charge sheet said Hamas recruited him to infiltrate World Vision more than a decade ago, and that he rose to become the head of the US-based Christian aid organisation’s Gaza operation.
Shin Bet said there was no evidence World Vision’s main office was aware of Halabi’s actions.
World Vision said it had “no reason to believe” the allegations against Halabi, while Hamas said it had no relationship with him.
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, said Shin Bet.
This equated to USD 7.2 million per year, including about USD 1.5 million given in cash to Hamas combat units.
World Vision, which employs tens of thousands of people globally, said its programmes were subject to “regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations” to avoid aid misuse.
“Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true,” it said in a statement.
Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the military body that coordinates Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza, met Thursday night in Tel Aviv with what his office called “senior World Vision officials from America,” without identifying them.
“This is a grave incident,” an English-language statement from Mordechai’s office quoted him as telling the visitors. “Assume responsibility and set your house in order.”
It said he gave the World Vision executives Israel’s findings on the case and a copy of Halabi’s confession and that they renounced “any support, direct or indirect for Hamas.”
World Vision works in conjunction with the United Nations, often implementing its projects.
It has worked in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since 1975.