On Wednesday, Christian Today reported that Mohammad El Halabi, an employee of World Vision (WV), the world’s largest evangelical Christian charity, had been detained on June 15 at the Erez crossing “on his way home from routine meetings” and was being held “without access to legal counsel or family visits,” which is normal fare in Israel with regards to security prisoners.
Last Friday, when El Halabi’s detention had been extended until August Tuesday, Aug. 2, WV’s eastern Jerusalem office released a statement saying, “World Vision stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well-regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade. He has displayed compassionate leadership on behalf of the children and communities of Gaza through difficult and challenging times, and has always worked diligently and professionally in fulfilling his duties.”
It should be interesting to see the charity’s response to the charges submitted against El Halabi by the Southern District Prosecution in Beer Sheva District Court Thursday, describing him as Hamas activist who has been using his high position in the charity organization to systematically divert millions of dollars to the military arm of Hamas, financing, among other things, the digging of terror tunnels. The monies, according to Thursday’s indictment, was taken out of funds and resources that had been dedicated to humanitarian assistance to Gaza Strip residents. The indictment includes 12 counts of security violations of passing information to the enemy, membership in a terror organization, funding terrorism, participation in an unlawful association, and contact with foreign agents.
The facts included in the indictment describe El Halabi as having a master’s degree in engineering. A member of Hamas since 1995, in 2004 he joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. In 2005 he was hired by WV to carry out administrative assignments at the charity’s Gaza branch. His job provided him with an entry permit into Israel. El Halabi exploited his visits to Israel to locate and mark [via GPS] sites near the Erez Crossing that potentially could be used as egress points for Hamas attack tunnels.
Carrying out his assignments, according to the prosecution, El Halabi usurped millions of dollars in donations that arrived from foreign countries such as the US, Australia, Germany and the UK, and were slated for humanitarian needs, agricultural, education, and psychological support.
According to El Halabi, the humanitarian aid donated for the residents of the Gaza Strip was in actual 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. 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.
Over his many years working for WV, El Halabi transferred to Hamas’s possession thousands of tons of iron rods, digging equipment and plastic hoses, originally intended for agricultural use but in reality utilized by the Hamas tunnel builders and for building military bases such as the “Palestine” military base which was built in 2015 entirely from British aid money. 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. During the war of 2014, Hamas terrorists received WV food packages to sustain them above and below ground, including in terror tunnels.
El Halabi also provided plastic sheets bearing the WV emblem to cover the openings of tunnels, making them look like agricultural hothouses.
According to the indictment, around the year 2012, El Halabi was engaged by Hamas to initiate a greenhouse project, to use 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’s military marine unit.
The Shabak investigation revealed that the main method El Halabi used to divert money to Hamas was to put out fictitious tenders for WV-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The “winning” company was simply informed that 60% of the project’s funds were to be designated for Hamas.
El Halabi told his interrogators that a regular method of acquiring equipment for Hamas was to disguise Hamas warehouses as WV warehouses. Trucks bringing supplies to the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza would then unload their goods at Hamas warehouses instead of legitimate WV warehouses. Hamas operatives would pick up the supplies in the dead of night.
According to Shabak, the El Halabi investigation revealed much information concerning additional figures in the Gaza Strip who exploited their work for 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 Hamas.
How the Money Was Transferred to Hamas
Some of the money raised to support injured children in Gaza was diverted to the families of Hamas terrorists, by fraudulently listing their children as wounded.
Money designated for psychological support, education and health in Gaza ($2 million/year) was used to pay the families of Hamas terrorists.
Part of the WV donations was transferred in cash and recorded fraudulently as aid to needy children.
Monies were paid out as salaries to Hamas terrorists and activists, who were registered as employees of the aid organization when in fact they never worked for WV.
Costs for legitimate infrastructure projects were inflated, with the difference going to Hamas.
Straw companies — two farmers’ associations and a fake charity for the benefit of the injured — were established with false registers to launder money.
Unemployment payments were diverted to Hamas terrorists. El Halabi arranged for one-third of the allowances WV transfers to Gaza for the unemployed to go to members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The terrorists received a larger allowance ($392 instead of $300).
Using lists of fictitious beneficiaries, $2 million a year were designated as aid for farmers and diverted to Hamas activists. El Halabi reported a larger sum than what was actually transferred to the farmers to World Vision. The difference was diverted to Hamas.
Project costs were inflated. For example, WV invested in the construction of 500 greenhouses and the preparation of land (495 acres) for agriculture. El Halabi reported to the charity that the cost was $1,000 per quarter acre, while the real cost was $700. The difference – $300 per quarter acre – was transferred to Hamas.
In their 2014 report titled “Filling in the Blanks — Documenting Missing Dimensions in UN and NGO Investigations of the Gaza Conflict,” NGO Monitor and UN Watch have cautioned: “The willingness of World Vision workers to openly discuss these issues is exceptional; however, the answers leave little doubt as to World Vision’s willingness to negotiate and coordinate with armed groups. This raises questions as to whether the group would prevent components of its aid from being misappropriated by terrorist organizations, if it felt that taking a stand would jeopardize the organization’s ability to continue its operations in a given area.”