Israel arrests Turkish aid worker who assisted Hamas

Israel exposed yet another Palestinian aid worker who funneled funds to Hamas terror operations.  

Israeli security forces arrested Muhammad Murtaja, a Gaza resident and Turkish aid agency employee, on suspicion he abused his position and funneled funds to the Hamas terror group, the Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) announced Tuesday.

Murtaja, 40, was the Gaza branch coordinator of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) , a humanitarian assistance program run by the Turkish government for advancing humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip.

Murtaja, arrested in February as he exited Gaza, was recruited by Hamas at the end of 2008.

Beginning in 2009, Murtaja was active in Hamas’ military wing. His activities included military training and exercises, the manufacturing of weapons and explosive devices, and digging terror tunnels. Murtaja stored hand grenades and guns in his home.

During the investigation, Israeli security learned Murtaja’s trip to receive training from TİKA via Israel was also intended for him to obtain information that would improve the accuracy of Hamas rockets launched at Israel. Murtaja was arrested during his trip.

Abuse of Aid Used for Terrorism

As the Gaza coordinator for TİKA, Murtaja diverted the organization’s resources and funds intended for Gazan humanitarian projects to Hamas for terror activities. This fraud occurred in collusion with senior ranks of Hamas in Gaza, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, the Shin Bet stressed.

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The investigation uncovered various techniques Murtaja used. He would give his superiors in TİKA a list of supposedly impoverished residents in Gaza who were candidates to receive financial aid. Hamas senior officials provided these lists to Murtaja, and most of the so-called listed needy people were actually Hamas terrorists or their family members. In this manner, they received benefits and stipends.

Another scheme used by Murtaja enabled millions of shekels to be diverted to members of the Hamas military wing during and after Operation Protective Edge. Food packages donated by TİKA for the destitute population in the Gaza Strip were given to Hamas terrorists fighting Israel.

In addition, when Operation Protective Edge ended, the organization financed a public event, at which Hamas military members were awarded stipends and benefits.

Terrorism Disguised as Aid

It was further revealed the Turkish İHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation directly helped fund Hamas. Israel designated İHH a terrorist organization in 2008 because of its support for Hamas.

The investigation showed Mehmet Kaya, the coordinator of IHH’s Gaza office, gave Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Ra’ad Sa’ad cash from Turkey earmarked for the Hamas military wing. The funds were used to build a Hamas marine forces training facility, as well as to purchase equipment and weapons.

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For years IHH methodically transferred funds this way to the Hamas military wing for its military buildup, the Shin Bet said.

A Pattern of Abuse

Murtaja provided a great deal of useful operative information on Hamas, including on tunnel routes, the methods used by Hamas in digging the tunnels, battle plans, and weapons manufacturing.

“Murtaja’s interrogation provides broad exposure to the methods used by Hamas in acquiring resources for its buildup and in the operative military sphere,” the Shin Bet stated.

“This information, combined with a great deal of information obtained in the investigations of Hamas military members over the past year, show the considerable efforts invested by Hamas in preparing for a military confrontation with Israel, at the expense of the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” the statement added.

“This investigation demonstrates the diverse fraudulent methods used by Hamas vis-à-vis the international community and humanitarian aid organizations. These acts of fraud, involving the highest levels of Hamas leadership, divert money and resources meant to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and the destitute population therein. This fraud gives Hamas more room to use all its material and economic resources for acts of terror and military buildup.

In the past year, Israel has arrested and indicted several Gaza residents who abused international aid and their positions as aid workers to assist Hamas in its military buildup, including the manager of the World Vision charity for funneling millions to Hamas.

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By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News