Hamas, the terror group which runs the Gaza Strip, successfully infiltrated an international aid organization working in Gaza and stole tens of millions of dollars, redirecting the funds to its military wing, the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced on Thursday.
Gazan civil engineer Muhammad Halabi was identified as the agent who infiltrated World Vision International, a massive Evangelical Christian charitable organization which is active in over 90 countries worldwide and has a presence in Gaza.
Halabi became head of the Gaza branch in 2010, from which position he was able to redirect 60 percent of the organization’s budget – $7.2 million a year – away from humanitarian assistance for Gaza’s impoverished and disabled and into a channel funding Hamas’s various terrorist and military activities, including the purchasing of weapons and the construction of terror tunnels.
The plot to place a Hamas agent in the World Vision organization was part of a “very focused mission, to penetrate an international aid organization and exploit its resources,” said a Shin Bet source, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Halabi was recruited in 2004 for that specific task. He used false documentation and carefully placed associates to carry out his schemes.
The Shin Bet’s investigation revealed that humanitarian funds embezzled from the organization went to building a military base in Gaza, paying the salaries of Al-Kassam Brigade fighters, and buying construction materials for military facilities and tunnels, among other uses.
In some cases, food purchased by the organization was literally taken from the mouths of the hungry. Packages of food intended for the poor were sent instead to Hamas battalions in Northern Gaza. Mental health aid funds were also stolen.
World Vision International was totally unaware of the operation, said the Shin Bet. The organization’s website states that its mission, which operates 14 programs throughout Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, provides education, disaster response, child protection, and clean water. It also partners with Palestinian Christian churches.
Hamas regularly siphons off money and resources from the millions of dollars in humanitarian aid that Gaza receives from international organizations and governments. The terror group has also pressured Gazans with travel permits into Israel, usually for medical reasons, to smuggle in weapons and funds or carry out terror attacks.