TEL AVIV – The British government has suspended all taxpayer funds channeled to U.S.-based Christian charity World Vision after it emerged that the funds for its Gaza branch were being appropriated by Hamas for terror purposes.
The decision made by the Department for International Development, a UK government aid agency, follows similar moves made by Germany and Australia earlier this month after Israel indicted World Vision Gaza manager Muhammad el-Halabi over allegations that he was a mole for Hamas who infiltrated the charity in order to provide funds for the terror group.
Secretary of state for development aid Priti Patel said she was “deeply concerned” by the charges.
“DFID does not provide any current funding to World Vision operations in Gaza, or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) more widely,” she wrote in the letter to the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies.
“We have written to World Vision to inform them that we will not consider any future funding to their work in the OPTs until World Vision has completed its audit and we have had the opportunity to fully consider our position,” she added.
Israel claimed that some £60,000 ($80,000) in World Vision donations from the UK had been used to build a Hamas military base, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The British Conservative Friends of Israel praised Patel for a “rapid and thorough investigation.”
“The hardworking taxpayers of this country will be relieved to learn that every effort is being made to ensure that their hard-earned money will not end up in the pockets of the wrong people but will be helping those that are most in need,” said CFI Honorary President Stuart Polak.
£72 million ($95 million) was earmarked by the Department for International Development for Gaza in 2015-2016, down from 91 million pounds ($120 million) in 2011-2012.
On June 15, the Shin Bet arrested Muhammad Halabi, a Hamas member and head of operations for World Vision in Gaza. According to the security agency, Halabi was a member of Hamas since 1995 and was groomed to infiltrate the international charity more than a decade ago.
“This was a meaningful and important investigation that showed — above all — the cynical and crude way in which Hamas takes advantage of funds and resources from international humanitarian aid organizations,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
60 percent of the charity’s total operating budget, amounting to approximately $7 million per year, was funneled to Hamas. Part of the diverted funds were used by Hamas to build underground terror tunnels into Israel, the Shin Bet said.
World Vision originally denied the charges but has since ceased its Gaza operations until the investigation is over.