Two Palestinian men have been charged with funneling funds from Turkish charities earmarked for Gaza reconstruction to the terrorist group Hamas, Israel’s internal security service announced on Tuesday.
The Shin Bet said that Muhammad Murtaja, the Gaza coordinator of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), was arrested in February as he attempted to travel from Gaza to Turkey, The Times of Israel reported. Another suspect, Mehmet Kaya, the head of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), has not yet been apprehended.
“The egotistical Hamas terror organization has robbed funds that are meant for the needy of Gaza from international organizations,” said Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories. “Hamas prospers at the expense of the residents of the Strip and uses donations meant for them to finance terror.”
According to the Shin Bet, Hamas recruited Murtaja in 2008 in order to siphon charitable funds meant for “meaningful humanitarian projects.” He is believed to have diverted “millions of shekels” in aid for needy Gazans, and instead arranged for individuals who “were apparently Hamas military operatives and their families” to receive the funds.
Murtaja carried out the embezzlement with the knowledge of Hamas’s leadership, “with Ismail Haniyeh at its head,” the Shin Bet said. Following his recruitment, Murtaja also participated in “training and military exercises, manufacturing weapons and improvised explosive devices and digging terror tunnels,” the agency added.
During his interrogation, Murtaja gave the Shin Bet “operational information” about Hamas’ network of terror tunnels, as well as its future war plans.
Kaya similarly diverted aid from the IHH, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the Netherlands and is banned by Germany for its support of Hamas, in order to “directly fund the activities of Hamas’s military wing,” the Shin Bet charged. The IHH was behind the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, which attempted to break Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza and precipitated a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey.
The Shin Bet said that the money Kaya gave Hamas was used to establish a training base for naval commandos, as well as to purchase arms and munitions.
“This investigation shows the embezzlement methods used by Hamas against the international community and humanitarian aid organizations,” the Shin Bet said. This fraud “diverts money and resources that are meant for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and needy populations.”
Or, more to the point, Turkish charity diverting funds to Hamas. https://t.co/GJ1a3mdUzc
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) March 21, 2017
Hamas has a record of diverting foreign aid to support its terror war against Israel. Mohammad el-Halabi, who ran the Gaza branch of the global charity World Vision, was arrested by Israel in August of last year for allegedly diverting millions of aid money to Hamas. El-Halabi, who was said to have been recruited by Hamas in 2004, joined World Vision a year later.
Luke Moon, deputy director of the Philos Project, summed up el-Halabi’s activities in the December 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine:
Mohammad el-Halabi, World Vision’s manager for Gaza, stands accused of funneling as much as $43 million to Hamas over 10 years. Food intended for families and children went to feed Hamas fighters training to attack Israel. Farm equipment was diverted to build terror tunnels.
Moon also noted that “according to the case presented by the Israeli police, el-Halabi specifically infiltrated World Vision in 2005 in order to funnel resources to Hamas.”
In a similar case last August, Waheed Borsh, an engineer with the United Nations Development Program, was arrested by the Shin Bet and charged with using his position to help Hamas build and maintain terrorist infrastructure, such as tunnels and jetties.
The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reported in March that Hamas had enriched itself using Qatari money that was intended to build homes for Gazans. Although the homes were meant to be given free of charge, Hamas charged families $40,000 each, ostensibly to connect utilities, collecting an estimated $38 million to fund its other activities.
Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out in February 2016 that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, demonstrating that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
[Photo: Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories ]