Israel is accusing a family of Palestinians with a leading role in humanitarian relief in Gaza, working both with charities and UN agencies of funding terrorism.
Israel security agency Shin Bet arrested Mohamad Halabi, 38, at the Erez Crossing six weeks ago.
Halabi is the Director of World Vision in Gaza; on Thursday, Halabi was publically accused by Shin Bet of diverting millions of dollars of the charity’s funds to Hamas.
The arrest followed a raid in World Vision’s offices on Thursday.
World Vision is a Washington-based Cristian humanitarian relief organization with a $3bn budget and 46,000 employees worldwide.
According to Shin Bet, Halabi was recruited by Hamas in 2004 to infiltrate World Vision, a Christian aide organization. He gradually moved up the organizational ladder and has since 2010 has been able to channel of US and European donations earmarked for humanitarian relief to Hamas.
Halabi is the son of a senior but retired official in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which runs schools and refugee camps.
A UNRWA spokesman, Christopher Gunness, dismissed he accusation suggesting that although Israel’s military has raised the issue, no evidence has been produced but pledged to investigation “credible allegations” when these arise, in line with standard policy.
Where did the money go
Halabi’s funds allegedly financed the Hamas payroll, but also the construction of tunnels and the purchase of weapons. They were allegedly channeled through fictitious agricultural cooperatives, as well as psychological and public health programs. Organizations that carried out these projects and were funded by World Vision were made to pay a 60% surcharge to Hamas according to Shin Bet.
This information was extracted during interrogation. Shin Bet claims both Halabi and his father have worked for Hamas.
The Israeli government accuses World Vision of negligence, but not of conspiracy according to a foreign ministry spokesman. World Vision in turn has officially complaint about Halabi’s lack of access to a lawyer or his family.
World Vision stands by its employee whom it regards a leader and an advocate “on behalf of the children and communities of Gaza through difficult and challenging times,” according to the organization’s online statement. The organization also claims it has an extensive internal and extensive audit system and dismisses Shin Bet’s allegations.
Australia announced it is suspending funding to the organization until an investigation has taken place.
(The Guardian, Times of Israel, Washington Post)