The international charity World Vision has suspended its operations in the Gaza Strip after the director of its branch in the Palestinian territory was charged with funneling millions of dollars in aid to Hamas, Reuters reported on Friday.
Israel froze World Vision’s accounts in Jerusalem following last month’s arrest of Mohammad el-Halabi, who is accused of diverting 60 percent of the charity’s funds for Gaza to the Islamist terrorist group for the purpose of building tunnels, purchasing weapons, and paying salaries.
World Vision Gaza chief used UK funds to help Hamas build this base, IDF alleges https://t.co/cTEB7ZRQ5G pic.twitter.com/WNXery7nEb
— Oren Kessler (@OrenKessler) August 8, 2016
“Due to the seriousness of the allegations laid against Mohammad El Halabi, World Vision has suspended operations in Gaza,” the charity said in a statement. “We are conducting a full review, including an externally conducted forensic audit.”
According to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, el-Halabi was specifically recruited by Hamas to infiltrate World Vision. He joined the charity in 2005 and by 2010 had become the chief of its Gaza operations.
In the wake of the charges against el-Halabi, who maintains his innocence, Australia and Germany both announced that they would stop funding World Vision pending the completion of Israel’s investigation.
The incident also prompted Robert Piper, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, to say that the allegations “raise serious concerns for humanitarian organizations working in Gaza. Redirecting relief away from its intended beneficiaries would be a profound betrayal of the trust put in a senior manager by his employer and by the organization’s donors.”
Shortly after the charges against el-Halabi were publicized, Israeli security officials announced that Waheed Borsh, an engineer with the UN Development Program, was charged with using his position to help Hamas. Borsh confessed that he had helped Hamas build a military jetty in northern Gaza, notified Hamas when the UNDP would find hidden weapons caches or tunnel openings, and prioritized the rebuilding of homes where Hamas members resided, the Shin Bet said.
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