The Israeli watchdog organization NGO Monitor says the Arab press photographer who was killed last week while filming the violence at the Gaza-Israel border was there in more than one capacity — and that the NGO he was representing may have been infiltrated by Hamas.
According to an April 9 statement by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Yasser Murtaja was working as a contractor for the organization on April 6. But Murtaja had reportedly been exposed as a member of the Hamas terrorist organization.
The Hebrew-language Walla! news outlet quoted unnamed sources as saying that Murtaja had been an officer in the Hamas security apparatus for years. According to the report, Murtaja attempted to smuggle a drone into Gaza in 2015 to aid Hamas in its intelligence gathering. The sources told Walla! that Murtaja was constantly in contact with senior officials in the Hamas internal security group and many of those officials attended his funeral.
NGO Monitor pointed out in a statement on Tuesday, “If true, then this is another worrying example of Hamas infiltration of an international aid organization.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council said in its statement on April 9, “Yasser Murtaja…had agreed to document for NRC the bitter prolonged struggle faced by Palestinian refugees in Gaza. The work was planned to start the day after he was killed.”
NGO Monitor has for years documented concerns that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like NRC do little to mitigate the risks of aid diversion when operating in conflict zones and areas controlled by terrorist groups.
In particular, NGO Monitor said the NRC’s statements criticizing “counter-terrorism measures” – designed to prevent Hamas and other Palestinian Authority terrorist factions from commandeering materials and funds – as “the primary obstacle to humanitarian action within Gaza” were highly problematic.
Earlier this month, the Norwegian People’s Aid organization admitted in a U.S. court settlement to working with Hamas and other Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations in Gaza.
In 2016, World Vision’s manager of operations in Gaza was arrested and is currently on trial for funneling 60 percent (approximately $50 million) to Hamas for use in terror tunnels, military installations, and other terrorist activities.
“The repeated instances in which international organizations are hijacked by Hamas highlights the urgent need for greater oversight by both NGOs and their donor governments,” NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg said.
“Organizations must take vetting procedures very seriously in selecting employees, and conduct frequent financial reviews and audits to actually help the vulnerable population of Gaza and prevent diversion,” Steinberg added.