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Shin Bet: Gaza Charity Official Funneled Tens of Millions—60% of Group’s Budget—to Hamas

The regional head of the global Christian charity World Vision funneled tens of millions of dollars to the terrorist group Hamas in order to fund its military activities, the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, charged Thursday.

The Shin Bet revealed that it had arrested Mohammad el-Halabi, the director of World Vision’s Gaza branch, in June. El-Halabi admitted under interrogation to diverting World Vision funds to Hamas for the purpose of building terror tunnels and purchasing weapons. World Vision is one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations, with branches is over 100 countries, 46,000 employees, and an annual budget of $2.6 billion.

The Shin Bet said that 60% of World Vision funds to Gaza — “originating in aid money from western states such as the United States, England and Australia” — were diverted to Hamas. They were largely used to buy materials necessary to construct military outposts and tunnels, as well as pay fighters. In one instance, the Shin Bet alleged, El-Halabi began a project to build greenhouses that were actually used to mask tunnel building activity.

Additionally, $80,000 in British aid intended for needy families was actually used to pay Hamas salaries and give bonuses to terrorists who fought against Israel during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Funds were also used to construct Hamas military bases, including one code-named “Palestine” that was built in 2015 entirely using British money.

El-Halabi also gave thousand of parcels of food and health products to Hamas military commanders. In a statement released by the Shin Bet, he admitted that he sometimes gave out envelopes of cash containing amounts up to $50,000. The Shin Bet estimated that El-Halabi diverted $7.2 million to Hamas every year, of which about $1.5 million was used pay the group’s combat units.

While some other World Vision employees were aware of El-Halabi’s activities, and sometimes assisted him, the Shin Bet said that the charity’s top officials were unaware of his support for Hamas.

El-Halabi was recruited in 2004 by Hamas’ main militia, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, with the goal of infiltrating World Vision. He joined the charity the next year, and by 2010 El-Halabi had become head of its Gaza operations.

Hamas has a record of diverting foreign aid to support its terror war against Israel. The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reported in March on a scheme where Hamas enriched itself using Qatari money that was intended to build homes for Gazans. Although the homes were meant to be free, Hamas charged families $40,000 each, ostensibly to connect utilities, collecting an estimated $38 million to fund its other activities.

In Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels, which was published in the April 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Dan Feferman described the damage Hamas has done by siphoning resources earmarked for civilian projects in order to build its terror infrastructure:

There is a tragic side to Hamas’ tunnel strategy. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. This is not Israel’s fault, as building supplies flow regularly into Gaza. But according to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels. Estimates are that one tunnel can cost a million dollars to build and uses around 50,000 tons of concrete. Close to a million tons of concrete were poured into the terror tunnels before 2014.

The tunnels, in this sense, are a zero-sum game. If the same materials were put into reconstruction, the Gazan people would be better off and, lacking this crucial asymmetric warfare capability, Hamas would be less tempted to attack Israel. On the other hand, with the same limited materials going to terror tunnels, the people of Gaza continue to live in ruins while Hamas rebuilds its war machine.

[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]