GAZA CITY — A Palestinian UN worker sentenced by Israel to seven months for aiding Hamas was released Thursday and returned to Gaza, calling his prosecution “unjust” and hoping to resume his job.
Waheed Borsh, 39, arrived at his home in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip and was greeted by dozens of well-wishers handing out sweets and singing songs.
Israeli forces detained Borsh, an engineer, on July 16, causing a major stir in the aid community.
He was sentenced last week to seven months in prison in a plea deal, but released on the basis of time served and for good behavior.
Israel initially claimed Borsh had been recruited by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip, but it later dropped that allegation. He was convicted for “rendering services to an illegal organization without intention,” his lawyer said.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where Borsh worked, said the deal showed there had been no wrongdoing by the organization.
Speaking to AFP, Borsh said he was hopeful of returning to his job.
“I don’t think what happened will affect my work,” he said, insisting that his trial had been “unjust” and that he was never allied to any political party.
“The aim of the organization (UNDP) is to help people,” he said.
Separately on Thursday, the court case of the Gaza head of a major international Christian charity, World Vision, was adjourned for two weeks, his lawyer said.
Mohammed el-Halabi is charged with aiding Hamas, with Israeli officials accusing him of siphoning millions of dollars to the Islamist group.
A district court in Beersheba in southern Israel delayed the case until February 2, lawyer Lea Tsemel said, a day after two new charges were announced.
He did not enter a plea but told journalists in the court he was innocent, according to media reports.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in Gaza since 2008.
Israel has long alleged that Hamas has sought to infiltrate humanitarian organizations and divert aid, accusations the Islamist group denies.
Aid workers privately admit to pressure from Hamas.
But they also say materials taken into Gaza are subject to some of the world’s strictest monitoring and that the blockade is preventing essential goods from entering the impoverished enclave.