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August 5, 2016 1:01 pm

Australia Suspends Aid to Humanitarian Group After Charity Official Charged for Allegedly Diverting Funds to Hamas

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Mohammed Halabi was charged for allegedly funneling money to Hamas. Photo: Israeli Shin Bet security force.

Mohammed Halabi, head of the Gaza branch of World Vision, was charged for allegedly funneling money to Hamas. Photo: Israeli Shin Bet security force. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has ceased all funding of programs by the Christian charity World Vision in the Palestinian territories, after Israel accused the head of the charity of diverting donated funds to the Hamas terror group.

In June, according to Israel’s English-language i24news news outlet, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency arrested Mohammad El Halabi, the director of the Gaza Strip branch of World Vision. On Thursday El Halabi was charged with diverting an estimated $7.2 million a year from the charity’s funds to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

The Shin Bet estimates that since Halabi took over as director in 2010, about 60 percent of World Vision’s annual budget in Gaza was diverted to Hamas and its military wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

The Shin Bet said in a statement that Hamas’s military wing recruited El Halabi in 2004 and gave him a “very focused mission: to penetrate an international aid organisation and exploit its resources”.

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“Most of World Vision’s resources in the Gaza Strip – originating in aid money from western states such as the United States, England and Australia – were transferred to Hamas to strengthen its terrorist arm,” the agency said.

World Vision responded in a statement that it is “shocked” at the allegations against El Halabi, and that it will “review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence.”

Australia’s DFAT, which has given World Vision a total of 5 million Australian dollars ($3.8 million) over the past three years, called the allegations against El Halabi “deeply troubling,” and said it is ”urgently seeking more information from World Vision and the Israeli authorities.”

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