Hamas diverted "tens of millions of dollars" from World Vision, a U.S.-based Christian charity, to rebuild its terrorist infrastructure, Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service said Thursday.
The terrorist group reportedly siphoned 60 percent of the charity's resources in Gaza to reconstruct Hamas' tunnel network and military installations, in addition to purchasing weapons intended to kill Israelis. This amount translated to roughly $7.2 million each year.
Israeli security personnel arrested World Vision Gaza operations manager Muhammad Halabi on June 15. On Thursday, Halabi, also an alleged Hamas operative, was indicted on several charges related to the case.
The investigation revealed that Halabi was recruited to infiltrate World Vision in 2005 for the purposes of stealing funds to help Hamas.
The alleged scheme exemplifies "the cynical and crude way in which Hamas takes advantage of funds and resources from international humanitarian aid organizations," a Shin Bet statement said.
World Vision defended Halabi and denied the accusations. As of one of the largest humanitarian and charitable organizations worldwide, World Vision receives most of its support from the United Nations and Western governments.
Millions of dollars were intended to help in civilian reconstruction efforts for Gaza's population, including building greenhouses, enhancing agricultural projects, helping fishermen, and promoting mental and physical health initiatives.
Instead "these [funds] were all used as a pipeline to transfer money to Hamas," Shin Bet said.
The alleged scheme involved Hamas operatives, posing as World Vision employees, filing fake proposals for World Vision- financed projects in Gaza, before money laundering the cash straight to Hamas and its military wing.
For example, Halabi launched an initiative to build greenhouses to hide terrorist tunnel sites, while a proposed project intended to help Gaza's fishermen ended up using the money to improve Hamas' naval capabilities.
Hamas terrorists also falsely listed their children as injured to collect money intended to help children in Gaza who were actually wounded.
Moreover, Halabi used tens of thousands of dollars from the charity's finances to buy weapons in the Sinai during ousted Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi's reign.
For more information and examples about how Hamas diverted legitimate charitable funds from World Vision click here.
According to Israel's investigation, 40 percent of the funds allocated for civilian projects – about $1.5 million per year – were transferred to Hamas' terrorist units in cash. Approximately $4 million per year intended for helping needy civilians in Gaza were also diverted to Hamas for the purposes of enhancing its terrorist capacity.
Money was also reportedly used to pay the salaries of Hamas personnel, while some senior leaders pocketed large sums for themselves.
Since the end of the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, several reports emerged documenting how the terrorist group prioritizes its fight against Israel over the wellbeing of its population. This latest investigation uncovers important details on how Hamas exploits legitimate charitable organizations worldwide to finance its terrorist infrastructure at the expense of needy civilians and societal development.