Christian aid group official charged with funneling money to Hamas’ terrorist activities against Israel

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The director of a Christian aid group working in the Gaza Strip is under arrest for allegedly diverting funds toward Hamas’ military wing.

Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, arrested Mohammed el-Halabi, director of World Vision Gaza branch, in June for allegedly leading the transfer of millions of dollars to the terrorist group’s military operations. The figure comprises about 60 percent of the group’s total budget for Gaza operations. A gag order on the case was lifted Thursday, providing details of the conspiracy to the public.

Israeli security officials believe Hamas recruited Halabi in 2004 specifically to infiltrate a major aid organization. Halabi was ideal for the job due to the his prior experience working for a United Nations program. He had also previously worked with Hamas by hiring farmers to serve as lookouts. Israeli officials said that, on occasion, Halabi was taking orders directly from Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’ terror operations.

“This wasn’t a plot by one person. This was no trivial event but rather an organized plan secretly run by Hamas leadership,” a senior Shin Bet official told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “The careful planning, the secret work, the intention to take over from the inside, show Hamas’ daring and success.”

Israeli officials claimed in one example Halabi diverted $80,000 from British donors to build a Hamas fighting position in the Gazan town of Beit Hanun. The money was originally intended to go toward assisting destitute families and support aid projects. Another example saw funding for projects meant to support Gaza fishermen diverted towards supplying Hamas’ navy with boats and marine equipment. World Vision supply trucks are also believed to have transported aid directly to Hamas warehouses, as opposed to the charity’s facilities.

Shin Bet alleged that Halabi was just one of many World Vision workers that helped funnel money to Hamas, though it is believed the group’s top officials were not aware of the crime.

World Vision’s Gaza branch initially defended Halabi after his arrest, saying the group “stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade.”

World Vision released a statement Thursday after the gag order was removed that said the group was “shocked” to learn of the charges against Halabi. Despite the new details regarding his activities, the organization said it has “no reason to believe that the allegations are true.”

Halabi told Shin Bet officials during an interview that almost all of World Vision’s funding went to Hamas members and their families, a direct violation of aid group regulations.

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