Australia has suspended World Vision’s aid to Palestine after allegations of Gaza’s charity head diverting funds to finance Hamas militants.
World Vision official Mohammed el Halabi is facing charges of withholding up to $A6 million dollars a year to finance weapon purchases and pay troops for the Palestine based rebel group.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has launched an investigation into the allegations and, until complete, have put a hold on all funding toward Palestinian territories.
Australian World Vision’s Chief Executive Tim Costello welcomes the suspension but has said the charity remains skeptical of the charges laid against Mr Halabi.
“I want to reassure Australians that World Vision’s money in Gaza is being spent on reducing poverty for Palestinian people, not terrorism” Mr Costello told Guardian Australia.
“World Vision has detailed procedures and control mechanisms in place to ensure that the funds entrusted to us are spent in accordance with applicable legal requirements and in ways that do not fuel conflict but rather contribute to peace.”
According to World Vision the allegations were laid by the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet who has claimed Hamas recruited Mr Halabi more than ten years ago, accusing Halabi of being tasked to infiltrate World Vision.
The allegations, if proved correct, could strengthen Israel’s argument for maintaining a blockade in Gaza, something Israeli officials say is vital in preventing Hamas from importing weapons.
Miss Tori Carroll an avid supporter of World Vision and frequent donator has expressed her concerns about the allegations and how the wider public may react.
“Even if these allegations are false, it may cause many people to be dissuaded from donating to these people in need” Miss Carroll said.
“Its just a shame to think that this suspension in funds is probably only hurting those who need it the most.”
World Vision has said it is yet to see any substantial evidence against Mr Halabi and has not yet received an official brief of the allegations.