JERUSALEM — A Hamas member who infiltrated an American NGO funnelled tens of millions of dollars to the terrorist organization, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.
Mohammed El-Halabi, 32, director of the Gaza branch of the international humanitarian aid organization World Vision, was arrested at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on June 15, in a joint Shin Bet, Israel Defence Forces and Israel Police operation, the Shin Bet said in a statement released for publication on Thursday.
World Vision is one of the largest charitable and humanitarian aid organizations in the world. It receives support primarily from the United Nations and from Western governments.
El-Halabi told investigators that he has been a Hamas member since his youth and had undergone organizational and military training in the early 2000s. In 2005, Hamas ordered El-Halabi to infiltrate World Vision. Shortly after being employed by World Vision, El-Halabi began to use his position to benefit the Islamist terrorist organization, primarily by diverting funds meant as aid to strengthen Hamas’ terrorist arm, authorities said.
As director of the Gaza branch of the charity, he controlled the budget, equipment and aid packages which amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
The money allocated by World Vision for projects and farmers’ associations reached Hamas in various ways, according to the allegations, such as the false registration of Hamas terrorists as employees in charity-sponsored projects, fictitious receipts and inflated invoices in which the difference paid by the charity was transferred in cash to Hamas.
According to the Shin Bet, the main method used to divert money to Hamas was to put out fictitious tenders for World Vision-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The company that was granted the tender was made aware that 60 per cent of the project’s monies were to be designated for Hamas.
Some of the money went to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists and, in some cases, senior Hamas terrorists took large sums of money for their own personal use, according to the statement.
In addition, El-Halabi regularly transferred to Hamas equipment that he had ordered on behalf of World Vision for agricultural aid. The equipment included, iron rods, digging equipment, pipes, building materials, and was used to construct Hamas military outposts and to dig terror tunnels, according to Shin Bet.
Other humanitarian aid, including thousands of packages of food, basic commodities and medical supplies went to Hamas terrorists and their families, instead of to needy families.
El-Halabi also gave up other humanitarian workers in Gaza who are assisting Hamas, including his father, Halil, who has worked as head of the United Nation’s school system in the Gaza Strip.
The State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment on Thursday against El-Halabi. He has denied having links to Hamas and the charges against him.
World Vision has issued a statement in support of El-Halabi. “Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true. We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence,” the group said in a statement.
The charity also said its programs in Gaza “have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements.”