U.S.-based Christian charity World Vision International dismissed Israel's allegations on Thursday that a senior official in the Gaza Strip had diverted millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas militant group.
"Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true," the charity said in a statement, referring to Mohammed el-Halabi, arrested by Israel in mid-June and charged with siphoning the aid group's money to Hamas' military wing.
"We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We continue to call for a fair, legal process for Mohammad," the statement posted on the organization's web site said.
"World Vision subscribes to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality and therefore rejects any involvement in any political, military or terrorist activities and maintains its independence as a humanitarian aid agency committed to serving the poor, especially children," the statement said.
"World Vision programs in Gaza have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied any links to Halabi. He said the group had "no connecction to (Mr. Halabi) and therefore, all Israeli accusations are void and aim to suppress our people."
In the U.K., Richard Verber, vice president of the British Board of Deputies, said Israel's claims raised "serious questions" about his country's contributions to the organization, the Guardian reported.
Australia's Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma condemned the allegations as "deeply troubling," noting that World Vision has received Australian funds for programs in the Palestinian territories and the relevant government departments are investigating the case.
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