Israel accuses World Vision Gaza manager of funneling millions to Hamas

Israel has accused World Vision manager for the Gaza region of funneling millions of dollars to Islamist militant group Hamas.

Mohammad El Halabi (photographed above) was arrested by Israel on June 15 while crossing the border into Gaza, World Vision said in a statement. He was charged by Israeli authorities on Thursday.

He had run the organization’s Gaza operations since 2010.

According to Israel’s Shin Bet security service, El Halabi diverted around $7.2 million of World Vision money to Hamas each year. That is the equivalent of 60 percent of the charity’s total annual funding for Gaza.

Some 40 percent of the funds aimed at civilian projects — some $1.5 million a year — were “given in cash” to Hamas combat units, according to a statement issued by the Shin Bet.

Some of the money raised to support injured children in the enclave had been diverted to Hamas families by “fraudulently listing their children as wounded,” according to the agency.

“Money designated for psychological support, education and health in Gaza … was used to pay the families of Hamas terrorists,” it added.

A lawyer appointed by World Vision to represent El Halabi told NBC News that his client denied the charges against him.

“He told me he never, ever transferred any money to Hamas and he has never been a Hamas member,” Muhamad Mahmud said.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai called the case a “grave incident.”

He called on World Vision — which has operated in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank since 1975 — to “assume responsibility and set your house in order.”

Australia and Germany have suspended funding to the World Vision Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid group in response to Israeli allegations that its Gaza office had siphoned $7.2 million a year to Hamas.

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News category: World.

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