Israel’s security forces exposed Hamas’ exploitation of one of the world’s leading charities in order to funnel funds to its terror operations.
The Shin Bet (Israel’ Security Agency) announced Thursday the arrest of Mohammed El-Halabi, 38, from Jabalya in the Gaza Strip. El-Halabi is director of the Gaza branch of the international humanitarian aid organization World Vision. The arrest took place at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on June 15.
He was detained on suspicion of serious security offenses carried out for Hamas and for exploiting his visits to Israel for that purpose.
During the investigation, El-Halabi revealed that he has been a Hamas member since his youth and had undergone organizational and military training some 15 years ago.
In 2005, Hamas dispatched El-Halabi to infiltrate World Vision. He said Hamas believed that he had a good chance of infiltrating the humanitarian aid organization because his father works for the UN and he himself had worked for the United Nations Development Program.
In the latter capacity, he employed “farmers” in areas close to Gaza’s border with Israel, who in fact acted as lookouts for Hamas.
El-Halabi acknowledged that his father, Halil El-Halabi, who has served as head of UNWRA’s educational institutions in the Gaza Strip for years, is a member of Hamas and uses his position as a UN employee to help the terrorist organization.
Shortly after being employed by World Vision, El-Halabi began to use his position to benefit the Islamist terrorist organization, primarily by diverting funds meant as aid to strengthen Hamas’ terrorist arm.
Over the years, El-Halabi advanced in the charity’s hierarchy until he was appointed director of the Gaza branch. In this capacity, he controlled the budget, equipment and aid packages which amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
Humanitarian Projects as Cover for Terrorism
El-Halabi employed a sophisticated and systematic apparatus for transferring World Vision funds, allegedly 60% of the charity’s annual budget.
He established and promoted humanitarian projects and fictitious agricultural associations that acted as cover the transfer of monies to Hamas. Examples of such cover projects and associations include: greenhouse construction; restoration of agricultural lands; psychological and public health projects for Gaza residents and aid to fishermen.
The money allocated by World Vision for projects and farmers’ associations reached Hamas in various ways, such as the falsely registration of Hamas terrorists as employees in charity-sponsored projects; issuing fictitious receipts and inflated invoices in which the difference paid by the charity was transferred in cash to Hamas and transfer of the charity’s checks to Hamas terrorists.
Blowing the Lid off Fictitious Tenders
The investigation revealed that the main method used to divert money to Hamas was putting out out fictitious tenders for World Vision-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The “winning” company was made aware that 60% of the project’s monies were to be designated for Hamas. In this way, El-Halabi ensured a steady flow of cash into Hamas’ coffers.
According to El-Halabi, the funds he diverted to Hamas were utilized to finance the digging of terror tunnels, the building of military bases such as one code-named “Palestine” built in 2015 entirely from British aid money, and the purchase of weapons.
Some of the money went to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists and, in some cases, senior Hamas terrorists took large sums of money for their own personal use.
El-Halabi regularly transferred to Hamas equipment that he had ordered on behalf of World Vision, supposedly for agricultural aid. The equipment included iron rods, digging equipment, pipes, building materials, and was used to construct Hamas military outposts and to dig terror tunnels.
He also exploited the humanitarian projects that he initiated in order to provide logistical support to Hamas. For instance, he initiated a greenhouse project in order to use the greenhouses to hide the sites where terror tunnels were being dug.
In addition, a project for the rehabilitation of [fictitious] fishermen was actually used to provide motor boats and diving suits for Hamas’ military marine unit.
Another regular method of acquiring equipment for Hamas was to disguise Hamas warehouses as World Vision warehouses. Trucks bringing supplies to the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza would then unload their goods at Hamas warehouses instead of legitimate World Vision warehouses. Hamas operatives would pick up the supplies in the dead of night.
Aid Packages to Terrorists Fighting Israel
According to El-Halabi, the humanitarian aid donated for the residents of the Gaza Strip was in fact given almost exclusively to Hamas terrorists and their families. Non-Hamas members almost never received any benefit from the aid, despite their relative level of need.
“Needless to say, this is in contradiction to the accepted practice of the humanitarian aid organizations,” the Shin Bet pointed out. “Every month, El-Halabi distributed thousands of packages of food, basic commodities and medical supplies to Hamas terrorists and their families, commodities that World Vision had intended to go to the needy.”
This humanitarian aid was diverted by El-Halabi to Hamas terrorists also during Operation Protective Edge. During the fighting, the terrorists received food packages to sustain them above and below ground, including in terror tunnels.
El-Halabi also exploited his visits to Israel, which were permitted due to his legitimate work for World Vision, in order to engage in serious terrorist activity – locating and marking sites near the Erez Crossing with GPS that could be used as exit points for Hamas’ attack tunnels.
The investigation revealed much information concerning additional figures in the Gaza Strip who exploited their work in organizations, including humanitarian aid organizations and UN institutions, on behalf of Hamas.
“El-Halabi’s statements portray a troubling picture in which UN institutions in Gaza are in fact controlled by the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas,”tThe Shin Bet underscored.
“The facts uncovered during this important investigation illustrate, above all else, Hamas’ cynical exploitation of international humanitarian aid and resources donated by Western nations that are intended to aid needy residents of the Gaza Strip but which, in fact, are being diverted to Hamas for use in strengthening its terrorist and military capabilities. By its own actions, Hamas is harming the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, displaying its destructive priorities concerning Gaza,” the Shin Bet concluded.
The State Attorney’s Office indicted El-Halabi on Thursday.
World Vision is an American NGO, one of the largest charitable and humanitarian aid organizations in the world, operating in more than 100 countries. It receives support primarily from the UN and from Western governments.
Most of World Vision’s resources in the Gaza Strip – originating in aid funds from Western states such as the United States, England and Australia – were transferred to Hamas to strengthen its terrorist activities.