(JTA) — The Australian government suspended some funding to World Vision pending the completion of a probe into allegations that one of the group’s employees diverted organization monies to Hamas, officials said.
The US-based Christian charity World Vision International dismissed Israel’s allegations on Thursday that a senior official in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed el-Halabi, had diverted millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas terrorist group.
The Australian government has given World Vision some $5 million over the past three years intended for projects in Gaza. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced Friday that they have suspended funding for World Vision’s charity work in the Palestinian territories while the issue is being investigated.
World Vision said it was looking into the allegations, but added it believes them to be unfounded.
“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 about el-Halabi, who was arrested by Israel in June and charged with siphoning the aid group’s money to Hamas’ military wing.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, met Thursday with senior staff of World Vision. His office said in a statement that he had told them: “This is a grave incident. Assume responsibility and set your house in order” about what he defined as a “Hamas infiltration” of their group.
According to the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, during interrogations following his June 15 arrest, el-Halabi revealed that he has been a Hamas member since his youth and had undergone organizational and military training in the early 2000s.
Shortly after being employed by World Vision, he began to use his position to help the Islamist terrorist organization, primarily by diverting funds meant as aid to strengthen Hamas’ terrorist arm, Shin Bet said.