Israel on Friday rejected claims that it did not update Western donor states on the arrests of an aid worker in Gaza who was allegedly involved in the transfer of millions of dollars to the Hamas terror group and of a UN engineer facing similar allegations.
According to Haaretz newspaper, Israel received complaints from “key allies” regarding the detention of senior World Vision employee Mohammed el-Halabi, who has been charged for funneling tens of millions of dollars of the charity’s funds to Hamas for terror purposes. World Vision, an international Christian aid group with headquarters in Washington State and the United Kingdom, works in nearly 100 countries. With a budget of approximately $2.6 billion and nearly 50,000 employees, it is one of the largest US-based relief organizations and has operated in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza since the 1970s.
But the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem denied that it failed to update donor nations on the suspicions against el-Halabi, or those against Waheed Abd Allah Bossh, an engineer in the UN’s Development Program, who was arrested by the Shin Bet security service in July for allegedly funneling resources to the terrorist group.
“The claim that Israel had not updated the donor countries to World Vision and UNDP regarding the background of the arrest of the suspects is incorrect,” said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.
“Since the indictments against UNDP and World Vision personnel on their involvement in Hamas terror activities, relevant information has been conveyed, through various channels, to the countries involved in the humanitarian activity,” it added. “The Foreign Ministry will continue coordinating the transfer of information.”
Haaretz quoted unnamed Western diplomats as saying that Israel’s actions led to the sense that the government wanted to generate a “public diplomacy buzz,” as opposed to seeking a solution to the claims.
“The Israelis’ priorities in this affair are very strange,” the paper quoted one unnamed diplomat as saying. “Israel’s conduct is very disappointing.”
The UN legal department has “demanded” that Israel release Bossh, and asserted that he should enjoy diplomatic immunity, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Thursday.
Danon and Israel’s Foreign Ministry refused the request, calling the UN’s claims that the man has immunity from arrest “unfounded.”
“It is inconceivable that a man aiding a terrorist organization will enjoy UN immunity,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.