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No reason to believe Israel claims on head of Gaza office: World Vision

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows Mohammed el-Halabi, the manager of operations for World Vision in Gaza.

A major international NGO says there is no evidence as of now to support Israel’s claim that the head of its Gaza office supplied millions of dollars in foreign aid to the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

“Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true,” the international aid and advocacy group, World Vision, said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement came shortly after Israel’s internal spy agency Shin Bet said Hamas had recruited Mohammed el-Halabi over 10 years ago in a bid to infiltrate World Vision.

Shin Bet claimed that Halabi began to funnel USD 7.2 million (6.5 million euros) to Hamas each year after he rose to become the head of the aid organization in 2010.

Halabi had been arrested on June 15 and charged with the transfers, Shin Bet added.

The senior World Vision employee diverted roughly 60 percent of the charity’s annual budget in Gaza to Hamas, including its military wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, according to Shin Bet.

It claimed that Hamas has used more than USD 50 million it received from World Vision over the past three years to build tunnels and military posts and to purchase arms.

Hamas has not made any comments on the allegations so far.

The notorious Israeli agency has a record of arresting activists and rights campaigners in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

World Vision has tens of thousands of employees in some 100 countries. It has been offering aid to the Gazans, who have been affected by a crippling Israeli blockade and three devastating Israeli wars since Hamas was elected to rule the territory in 2007.

The international body had earlier condemned the extended detention of Halabi, saying the organization will do its best to defend him.

“World Vision stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade,” said World Vision in a statement last month.

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