Newly-banned Islamic Charity Rejects Ya'alon's Charge That It Funds Hamas

British-based Islamic Relief Worldwide says it works with needy children, cites European Commission, World Health Organization and UN Refugee Agency as 'key partners.'

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Tomer Appelbaum

A prominent British-based Islamic charity has denied any connection with Hamas, in the wake of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's decision to bar it from the West Bank because, in his words, it "is one of the sources of Hamas' funding."

Following Ya'alon's edict, which was reported on Friday, Islamic Relief Worldwide wrote on its website that it "categorically denies having links with Hamas." The organization, which said it has been operating in the West Bank and Gaza for the last 16 years, added that it was "surprised and extremely concerned" by reports of Ya'alon's decision. Israeli authorities had told it nothing about the move, the organization noted.

Ya'alon's order was issued as part of Israel's crackdown on Hamas, through raids on its West Bank institutions and arrests of suspected activists, after accusing the group of abducting three Israeli teenagers who went missing a week ago.

According to IRW's website, it has been working in the Palestinian territories since 1994, tending to underprivileged, malnourished and traumatized children as well as creating jobs and encouraging entrepreneurship with interest-free loans.

Founded in 1984, IRW says on its website that it operates in more than 30 countries, promoting economic and social development. It lists the European Commission, the World Health Organization and UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - among its "key partners."

'Unauthorized association'

Ya'alon signed the order declaring the IRW an "unauthorized association" and empowering Israeli authorities to seize any funds the group might send to Palestinians in the West Bank.

In a statement, Ya'alon said some of the charity's chapters, including those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were run by Hamas members.

"The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas's funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world," the statement said. "We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel."

Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and European Union. It has charitable networks as well as armed cadres.