Palestinian who works for Christian NGO in Gaza denies funding terror group

(Photo: REUTERS / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)Palestinians chant slogans during the funeral of three senior Hamas commanders, who were killed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 21, 2014. Israel killed three senior Hamas commanders in an air strike on the Gaza Strip, the clearest signal yet that Israel is intent on eliminating the group's military leadership after a failed attempt on the life of its top commander this week. Hamas, which dominates Gaza, named the men as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum and said they were killed in the bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah. All three were described as senior Hamas military figures.

A Palestinian who works for the Christian non-governmental organization World Vision has pleaded not guilty to helping Hamas the group that wants to destroy Israel and found an Islamic State instead.

Israel accuses Mohammed al-Halabi, head of Gaza operations for World Vision, of siphoning millions of dollar to Hamas.

The military wing of Hamas, along with several charities it runs, has been named as a terrorist organization by Israel (1989), the United States (1996), Canada (2002), the European Union (2001/2003), Japan (2006) and Egypt (2015), and it was outlawed in Jordan (1999).

Hamas has since 2007 been the main governing group in Gaza. Since 2008, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in Gaza.

Muhammad el-Halabi, a manager of the World Vision charity's operations in the Gaza Strip, was indicted on Aug. 4, 2016, for diverting the charity's funds to Hamas, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Gaza head of the U.S.-based NGO appeared in the Beersheba district court in southern Israel on Feb. 2 and pleaded not guilty to all charges against him of aiding Hamas, World Vision said.

Israel accuses Mohammed al-Halabi, head of Gaza operations for World Vision, of siphoning millions of dollars to the Islamist movement which runs the territory.

Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet, claims El Halabi received military and organizational training in the early 2000s and was "planted" at World Vision in 2005, reports.

Shin Bet alleges donations to World Vision paid for the salaries of high profile Hamas officials, while almost 70,000 British pounds ($87,000) was wrongly spent on a Hamas military base built in 2015.

The claims are that he created fictitious humanitarian projects and increased costs in other projects so he could send the money to Hamas.

World Vision says its humanitarian work in Gaza has been suspended following Halabi's arrest "as we conduct a thorough and wide-ranging review of our operations."

"World Vision has not seen any credible evidence supporting the charges," it said in a statement.

Halabi's lawyers have complained they have been prevented from seeing much of the evidence against him and objected to two additional charges being tacked on seven months after his initial arrest.

The trial will continue on Feb. 23.

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