The British Department for International Development, a UK government aid agency, said Tuesday that it does not fund the global charity World Vision’s Gaza Strip branch and will not consider awarding it grant money after Israel accused its director of funneling funds to the terror group Hamas.
The move followed decisions by Germany and Australia earlier this month to suspend donations to the international Christian charity over the allegations by Israel.
In a letter to the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, secretary of state for development aid Priti Patel said she was “deeply concerned” by the allegations leveled against World Vision and was “taking the matter extremely seriously.”
“DFID does not provide any current funding to World Vision operations in Gaza, or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) more widely,” she wrote in the letter, a response to a query from the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies.
“We have written to World Vision to inform them that we will not consider any future funding to their work in the OPTs until World Vision has completed its audit and we have had the opportunity to fully consider our position,” she added.
Israel had alleged that $80,000 in World Vision donations from the UK had been used to build a Hamas military base, according to The Daily Telegraph, which did not specify whether those donations were private or government funds . The UK government does fund World Vision’s Britain-based office, but the Department for International Development does not support its activities in Gaza, according to The Telegraph.
The British Conservative Friends of Israel praised Patel for the statement.
“The hardworking taxpayers of this country will be relieved to learn that every effort is being made to ensure that their hard-earned money will not end up in the pockets of wrong people but will be helping those that are most in need,” said CFI Honorary President Stuart Polak.
The Department for International Development was slated to spend 72 million pounds ($95 million) in Gaza in 2015-2016, down from 91 million pounds ($120 million) in 2011-2012, according to publicly available figures.
On August 4, Israel indicted World Vision Gaza manager Muhammad el-Halabi, accusing him of being a mole for Hamas and using his position and funds to aid the terror group.
Halabi, in his late 30s and from Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip, was charged with diverting tens of millions of dollars of both materials and cash to Hamas, including to its armed wing. He was arrested June 15, as he was crossing from Israel into Gaza.
An official from the Shin Bet security agency said the funds amounted to over $7 million a year, with up to 60 percent of the NGO’s operating costs allegedly siphoned off.
Part of the money was used to fund Hamas attack tunnels into Israel, the agency said.
World Vision, a US-based Christian charity which operates around the world, said it would launch an audit, but contested some of the claims by Israel.
It has stopped its Gaza operations due to the investigation into Halabi.