World Vision International is perhaps the world’s largest Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization. It can now add direct, if inadvertent, funding of terrorism to its resume.
World Vision has been operating in Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip since 1975.
It has now been revealed that 60 percent of World Vision’s annual budget for the Gaza Strip was diverted by Hamas to the tune of $7.2 million per year.
Much of that money was given in cash to Hamas militants, while even more was used to finance the construction of terror tunnels and to purchase weapons.
All of this was discovered during a lengthy investigation beginning in mid-June, when Israel arrested Mohammed El-Halabi, World Vision’s Gaza branch director, on suspicion of terrorist activity.
During the investigation, El-Halabi revealed that he has been a Hamas member since his youth and had undergone organizational and military training in the early 2000s.
In 2005, Hamas dispatched El-Halabi to infiltrate World Vision. El-Halabi related that Hamas believed that he had a good chance of infiltrating the humanitarian aid organization because his father works for the UN.
He added that his father, Halil El-Halabi, who has served as head of UNWRA’s educational institutions in the Gaza Strip for years, is a member of Hamas and uses his position as a UN employee to help the terrorist organization.
Shortly after being employed by World Vision, El-Halabi began to use his position to benefit the Islamist terrorist organization, primarily by diverting funds meant as aid to strengthen Hamas’ terrorist arm.
Over the years, El-Halabi advanced in the charity’s hierarchy until he was appointed director of the Gaza branch. In this capacity, he controlled the budget, equipment and aid packages which amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
El-Halabi employed a sophisticated and systematic apparatus for transferring World Vision funds to Hamas.
He established and promoted humanitarian projects and fictitious agricultural associations that acted as cover for the transfer of monies to Hamas. Examples of these projects and associations include: greenhouse construction; restoration of agricultural lands; mental health and public health projects for Gaza residents; aid to fishermen; a treatment center for the physically and mentally disabled; and farmers’ associations. All of these projects and associations were used to transfer funds to Hamas.
The money allocated by World Vision for projects and farmers’ associations reached Hamas in various ways, such as the false registration of Hamas terrorists as employees in charity-sponsored projects; issuing fictitious receipts and inflated invoices in which the difference paid by the charity was transferred in cash to Hamas; transfer of the charity’s checks to Hamas terrorists, etc.
The investigation revealed that the main method used to divert money to Hamas was to put out fictitious tenders for World Vision-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The “winning” company was made aware that 60 percent of the project’s monies were to be designated for Hamas. In this way, El-Halabi ensured a steady flow of cash into Hamas coffers.
According to El-Halabi, the funds he diverted to Hamas were intended mainly to strengthen the terrorist arm. As such, they were utilized to finance the digging of terror tunnels, the building of military bases and the purchase of weapons.
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.
El-Halabi regularly transferred to Hamas equipment that he had ordered on behalf of World Vision, supposedly for agricultural aid. The equipment included, inter alia, iron rods, digging equipment, pipes and building materials, and was used in fact to construct Hamas military outposts and to dig terror tunnels.
Just as El-Halabi exploited the humanitarian projects that he initiated in order to divert funds to Hamas, he also arranged for the provision of logistical support to Hamas. For instance, he initiated a greenhouse project in order to use the 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’ military marine unit.
Another regular method of acquiring equipment for Hamas was to disguise Hamas warehouses as World Vision warehouses. Trucks bringing supplies to the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza would unload their goods at Hamas warehouses instead of legitimate World Vision warehouses. Hamas operatives would pick up the supplies in the dead of night.
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.
This humanitarian aid was diverted by El-Halabi to Hamas terrorists also during the conflict of summer 2014 [Operation Protective Edge]. During the fighting, the terrorists received food packages to sustain them above and below ground, including in terror tunnels.
In addition to the financial and logistical aid that El-Halabi provided Hamas, he also exploited his visits to Israel, which were permitted due to his legitimate work for World Vision, to engage in serious terrorist activity – locating and marking [via GPS] sites near the Erez Crossing that potentially could be used as egress points for Hamas attack tunnels.
The investigation revealed much information concerning additional figures in the Gaza Strip who exploited their work in organizations, including humanitarian aid organizations and UN institutions, on behalf of Hamas. El-Halabi’s statements portray a troubling picture in which UN and other aid organizations in Gaza are in fact controlled by the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas.
In summary, the facts uncovered during this important investigation illustrate, above all else, Hamas’ cynical exploitation of international humanitarian aid and resources donated by Western nations that are intended to aid needy residents of the Gaza Strip but which, in fact, are being diverted to Hamas for use in strengthening its terrorist and military capabilities. By its own actions, Hamas is harming the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, displaying its destructive priorities concerning Gaza.