World Vision: Israeli allegations hard to reconcile with figures

World Vision: Israeli allegations hard to reconcile with figures
2 min read
10 August, 2016
Christian charity World Vision said that the Israeli claims of tens of millions of dollars being diverted from its Gaza operation to Hamas are hard to reconcile with group's figures.
Habali's lawyer said his client has been tortured in Israeli detention [Anadolu]

Christian charity World Vision on Tuesday described Israeli accusations that tens of millions of dollars in aid were diverted to Hamas as "hard to reconcile" with reality.

Israel's internal security agency, the Shin Bet, had last week accused the charity's Gaza director Mohammad al-Halabi of diverting $7.2 million each year since 2010 to Hamas and its military wing.

However, the charity said it has not seen any evidence to support these allegations, which it suggested were exaggerated.

"World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past ten years was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile," said a statement by World Vision International president Kevin Jenkins.

The statement said Halabi became the NGO's Gaza head in 2014 and would have only had the personal authority to sign off a budget up to $15,000.

The charity said it has suspended its Gaza operations due to the seriousness of the allegations and is conducting an external forensic audit.

However, faced with the charity's figures that undermine Israeli allegations, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the numbers were irrelevant.

"It's like when you catch a serial killer, the question of whether he killed 50 people or 25 people is not really relevant is it?" Nahshon told Australia's ABC network.

Muhammad Mahmoud, Halabi's lawyer has rejected the Israeli accusations as baseless, saying his client was held without charge or access to legal support for several weeks after his June 15 arrest.

"They beat him a lot," Mahmoud told Al Jazeera's Ben White, adding that Halabi "denies all allegations" made against him, including the so-called confession.

Samir Zaqout, assistant director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, the group that first provided a lawyer to Halabi, also made allegations of torture.

"He told our lawyer that they beat him and bound him to a small chair," Zaqout told Al Jazeera. "He was afraid they would kill him."

World Vision has 150 staff across Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, providing aid to around 560,000 people. The group said its work helped more than 92,000 children last year.