Israel Rejects Claim It Kept Gaza Donors in Dark About Alleged Hamas Embezzlement of Aid Funds

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Palestinian demonstrators hold posters of Mohammad el-Halabi of World Vision in Gaza City, August 7, 2016.
Palestinian demonstrators hold posters of Mohammad el-Halabi of World Vision in Gaza City, August 7, 2016.Credit: Mohammed Salem, Reuters

Israel's Foreign Ministry rejected Friday claims by the Australian, British and U.S governments that it has failed to respond to their request for information regarding the alleged transfer of international aid funds to Hamas in Gaza.

Nonetheless, Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for the ministry, admitted that Israel has only passed on some of the information regarding the case of the World Vision executive suspected of siphoning cash to Hamas' military wing, and said that Israel would do so in the future.

"The claim that Israel had not updated the donor countries to World Vision regarding the background of the arrest of the suspects is incorrect," Nahshon said.

Head of World Vision's Gaza branch Mohammad el-Halabi.Credit: World Vision

"Since the indictments against World vision personnel for their involvement in Hamas terror activities, relevant information has been conveyed, through various channels, to the countries involved in the humanitarian activity.

"The Foreign Ministry will continue coordinating the transfer of information," he said.

On Thursday, Western diplomats told Haaretz that Israel’s behavior in the affair is creating the impression that the government is interested in creating a “public diplomacy buzz,” rather than any real attempt to resolve the matter.

“The Israelis’ priorities in this affair are very strange,” said one Western diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, citing the diplomatic sensitivity of the story. “Israel’s conduct is very disappointing.”

Head of World Vision's Gaza branch Mohammad el-HalabiCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

On August 4, the Shin Bet security service announced the arrest of Mohammad El Halabi, World Vision’s Gaza zonal manager. The Shin Bet claimed that, for six years, Halabi served as a Hamas agent inside the Christian aid organization. During this time, it alleged, he diverted millions of dollars of donations from Western governments to Hamas, which the Islamist group then used for building tunnels and manufacturing weaponry in Gaza.

Western diplomats noted that as of Thursday, neither the ministry in Jerusalem nor any other official Israeli body has provided additional information or evidence concerning the matter to any of the Western countries involved, directly or indirectly, in transferring donations to World Vision.

The diplomats also noted that in the past few days, the Australian, British and U.S. ambassadors asked for clarifications from the Foreign Ministry concerning the delay in the transfer of the information and have expressed their displeasure to Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold and his deputy, Jeremy Issacharoff, with regard to Israel’s conduct, and the lack of cooperation on the part of the Israeli authorities.

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