World Vision aid worker convicted of funneling relief money to Hamas

NGO Monitor said it had tracked inconsistencies in World Vision’s records, noting disparities in reports filed by regional branches.

By World Israel News Staff

An Israeli court on Wednesday convicted a Gaza aid worker of funneling money to the Hamas terrorist organization.

The Beersheba District Court found Mohammed El Halabi guilty Wednesday afternoon of diverting international aid earmarked for Gazans via the World Vision organization to the Hamas terrorist group.

El Halabi was serving as the manager of World Vision’s operations in the Gaza Strip when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in June 2016 on suspicion of funding a terrorist organization.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency accused El Halabi of diverting some $50 million from the massive US-based Christian relief organization he worked for to Gaza-based terrorists, who used the funds to purchase weapons and build tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

Prosecutors accused El Halabi of using World Vision’s humanitarian projects and ties to agricultural associations to conceal his efforts to funnel aid money and building materials to Hamas.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry noted that World Vision has distanced itself from El Halabi, condemning terrorism and attempts to divert aid money.

The verdict was handed down following a May 9 order by the Supreme Court pressing the Beersheba court to conclude proceedings against El Halabi. Prior to Wednesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court was poised to holding hearings on whether further extensions on El Halabi’s arrest should be granted.

El Halabi has denied the charges against him, accusing Israeli authorities, including the Shin Bet, of targeting his work in an effort to delegitimize Palestinian Arab civil society.

The watchdog group NGO Monitor said Wednesday that it had tracked inconsistencies in World Vision’s records, noting disparities in reports filed by regional branches. A massive $49-million-dollar disparity was found, for instance, in the World Vision program for Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza, with $133 million earmarked by only $84 million in expenses.

Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, expressed satisfaction with Wednesday’s verdict, and called on aid groups to do more to ensure that their funds do not reach terrorist groups.

“The verdict is a reminder of the centrality of due diligence and credible oversight in the future to prevent the abuse of aid for terror in the region. To avoid enabling murderous Hamas attacks, which also compounds the suffering of Gaza residents, aid groups must implement rigorous vetting procedures, particularly regarding employees and their activities. If they cannot or will not do so, they should not be funneling more money into territory controlled by a terrorist entity, ” he said.

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“While World Vision is currently the focus of attention following the conviction of El Halabi and the scale of the allegations, this should be a cautionary moment for the other international aid organizations operating in Gaza, such as Oxfam, Care, and Christian Aid, as well as UN agencies such as UNRWA and OCHA.”

“Any diversion of humanitarian funds for terrorist purposes is a reprehensible act committed at the expense of the welfare of the Palestinian residents of Gaza. Israel will continue to use the tools at its disposal to prevent such crimes, and to hold Hamas and other terrorist groups accountable for perpetrating them.,” Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said regarding the conviction.

“Israel takes note of World Vision’s statement following the judgment, including its condemnation of any act of terrorism or support for such activities, and its rejection of any attempt to divert humanitarian resources or exploit the work of humanitarian organizations.

“Israel acknowledges the importance of humanitarian work in Gaza and continues to support international efforts to provide assistance to the Gazan population. It values and remains committed to cooperating with, and facilitating, the continued operations of humanitarian organizations, including World Vision, in a manner consistent with security considerations and applicable standards,” the Ministry stated.

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