Hamas denies “Israeli accusations” and any connection to World Vision scandal

Israeli officials warn international community of Hamas infiltration in other NGO’s; Australia suspends funds for World Vision in Palestinian territories

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Ongoing investigations are underway following reports confirming that Hamas infiltrated the non-profit humanitarian aid organization “World Vision”, Israeli officials warning international organizations following the events in which over $50 million was stolen and used to fund Hamas’s military wing and efforts.

The reports following a two-month investigation in which a Hamas operative (Mohammad El Halabi) who managed regional efforts for World Vision redirected a reported $7.2 million annually over the past several years was released on Thursday. World Vision responded to the reports and the indictment with 12 charges against Halabi “Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true…” and that it “stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade…”

Over the weekend, Hamas claimed it had no ties to Halabi and that the “Israeli accusations” were designed to suppress the Palestinian people of Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stating that Hamas has “no connection to Halabi and therefore all Israeli accusations are void and aim to suppress our people.”

Several Israeli officials have addressed the crime, warning of other infiltration and misuse of humanitarian aid and funds by Hamas. Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold warned the international community and called for support, stating “In view of this dangerous development, I call on you to help Israel in preventing the terrorist organization Hamas from undermining the security, stability and wellbeing of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

In an interview with Army Radio following the breaking report on Thursday, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned of “extensive ideological and monetary ties between terrorist organizations and delegitimization organizations that work against Israel,” stating that “I imagine that in the World Vision organization, which is very anti-Israeli, they turned a blind eye. The connections that were uncovered today [Thursday] are part of a much wider and very serious phenomenon. Israel will not permit this, and we will take action against these organizations and their activists. We expect donor countries and international organizations to carefully check the destination of the money.”

Despite denial by “World Vision”, Australia announced its immediate suspension of funds for the organization’s programs in the Palestinian territories, the Australian government stating on Friday “Any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military or terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored. We are suspending the provision of further funding to World Vision for programs in the Palestinian territories until the investigation is complete.”

THURSDAY: Mohammad El Halabi, a resident of the Gaza Strip and regional director for World Vision, was responsible for systematically redirecting millions of dollars to Hamas, Halabi reporting over 60% of donations designated to the region as having been stolen to support the terrorist organizations’ efforts, estimating around $7.2 million annually.

Halabi’s indictment includes “12 charges of security related offenses such as transferring information to an enemy entity, membership in a terrorist organization, multiple violations of the law prohibiting the funding of terrorism and contact with an enemy agent, among other charges.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, majority the stolen funds were directed to the military wing’s efforts, including tunnel construction, rocket and arms sales, militants’ salaries and a reported Hamas military base that was constructed in the Gaza Strip.

A reported “40% of the funds designated for civilian projects ($1.5 million/year) were given in cash to Hamas combat units” with funds “designated for the needy in Gaza ($4 million/year) were diverted to Hamas for the construction of terror tunnels and the purchase of weapons”. A reported “$80,000 received from the United Kingdom went to construction costs” of a Hamas military based, which was code-named “Palestine”. Over $250,000 designated funds for “food packages” was redirected to Hamas militants, with a reported $264,000 stolen from funds donated for “3,300 packages of cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products”.

Halabi reported that funds were directly stolen to support Hamas’s terror tunnel construction, as well as funds to feed militants in the tunnels during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Halabi took advantage of his permission to visit Israel often given his position as regional director of World Vision. He reportedly would locate “sites near the Erez Crossing that potentially could be used as egress points for Hamas attack tunnels”.

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