Mohammed El-Halabi (from the village of Jabalya, b. 1978), director of the Gaza branch of the international humanitarian aid organization World Vision, was arrested at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on 15 June 2016, in a joint ISA, IDF and Israel Police operation. During the investigation, it was learned that he had been active – inside World Vision – on behalf of the military wing of Hamas and that he had exploited the organization's budget and resources for Hamas.
World Vision is an American NGO, one of the largest charitable and humanitarian aid organizations in the world. It receives support primarily from the UN and from Western governments.
The ISA has learned that El-Halabi is actually a major figure in the terrorist/military arm of Hamas. El-Halabi has been taking advantage of his position to divert the humanitarian organization’s funds and resources from the needy to benefit of Hamas’ terrorist and military activities.
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. 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 related that Hamas believed that he had a good chance of infiltrating the humanitarian aid organization because his father works for the UN and he himself had worked in UNDP. In the latter capacity, he had employed “farmers” in areas close to Gaza’s border with Israel who in fact acted as lookouts for Hamas.
El-Halabi employed a sophisticated and systematic apparatus for transferring World Vision funds [60% of the charity’s annual budget, according to El-Halabi] 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; psychological 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 falsely 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% 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 [not meant for smuggling but for attacks on communities in southern Israel and on Israeli security forces)], the building of military bases such as one code-named "Palestine" [built in 2015 entirely from British aid money] 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 also used World Vision resources to provide logistical aid to the terrorist arm of Hamas. This, too, was the result of a sophisticated, well-oiled system that succeeded in transferring 60% of the humanitarian organization's resources in Gaza to Hamas.
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, 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 then 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.
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.
This important and significant investigation illustrates, 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.