Israel charges UN employee with aiding Hamas in Gaza
In third such case in a week, Shin Bet claims Development Program engineer directed resources to Palestinian terror group
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Israel on Tuesday accused a United Nations employee of taking advantage of his position to assist the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, the third such allegation in less than a week.
According to the Shin Bet security service, Wahid Abd Allah Borsh, 38, an engineer in the UN’s Development Program, both funneled resources to the terrorist group and kept Hamas out of trouble with the international organization.
In July, Shin Bet officers arrested Borsh, a resident of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, as he made his way into the coastal enclave through the Erez Crossing, the security service said.
During his interrogation, Borsh told investigators that in 2014, he was directed by Hamas to “focus on his work in the UNDP in a way that would allow Hamas to extract the greatest possible benefit from him,” the Shin Bet said.
“This investigation also demonstrates how Hamas exploits the resources of international aid organizations at the expense of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip,” the security service said.
The UNDP did not have an immediate response to the allegations, but said it planned to release a statement “within the hour.”
Hamas, meanwhile, denied the allegations in an official statement. The group’s spokesperson Sami Abu Zurhi called the accusations “false and baseless,” and said they were aimed at helping Israel strengthen its “siege” of Gaza.
If Israel persists in its policy of accusing aid organizations in Gaza, it would face “dangerous consequences,” Zurhi said.
The UNDP has operated in the West Bank and Gaza since the late 1970s. In recent years, its Gaza branch has focused on rebuilding the homes and businesses destroyed in the conflicts between Israel and Hamas.
In light of the allegations, the Foreign Ministry demanded the United Nations carry out an “immediate investigation of the incident in order to ensure that an organization that is supposed to work toward peace and calm is not supporting a murderous terrorist group,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement.
“Along with that, we must increase the oversight of the moneys that flow to human rights organizations, which are repeatedly used to transfer money to terrorist groups,” she said.
In addition to directing material support to Hamas, Borsh allegedly helped the group keep its weapons and materiel after they were found in UN locations.
“For example, when weapons or terrorist tunnel openings were discovered in houses being handled by the UNDP, Hamas would take control of the site and confiscate the arms and other materials,” the Shin Bet said.
“This violates clear UN procedures according to which UNMAS is supposed to be immediately notified as the United Nations Mine Action Service is the UN body in charge of dealing, inter alia, with explosive remnants of war,” it said.
Through his work as an engineer, Borsh allegedly directed the UNDP to work on projects that would benefit Hamas.
“In 2015, he helped build a marina for the use of the military arm of Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, using UNDP resources,” the Shin Bet said.
During that same year, he “worked to persuade UNDP managers to prioritize the rehabilitation of housing in areas populated by Hamas members, following a request he received from Hamas.”
During his interrogation, Borsh also gave Israeli security officers information on other employees of international aid organizations with ties to Hamas, along with the locations of “tunnels and military bases which he had been exposed to during his work in Gaza.”
On Tuesday, Borsh was formally charged in a Beersheba court for assisting a terrorist organization.
The indictment came on the heels of two other cases of Hamas operatives allegedly infiltrating international aid organizations.
On Thursday, the Shin Bet claimed that Muhammad Halabi, the manager of the World Vision charity’s operations in Gaza, had funneled millions of dollars to Hamas over the years. And on Monday, the Britain-based Save the Children organization said it would begin investigating allegations made by Israel that one of its employees had been recruited by Hamas.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on the international body to take rapid action against Hamas.
“These are not independent incidents, but a worrying trend of Hamas terrorists systematically taking advantage of UN groups,” Danon said in a statement.
“If the UN is really interested in improving the lives of Gaza residents, it must immediately stop and dismiss any employee who works in the service of Hamas and cut all ties with organizations that assists terrorist,” the ambassador added.