World Vision Claims Israeli Charges Have ‘Huge Gap’ in Numbers

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
A car is parked outside the offices of U.S.-based Christian charity World Vision in Jerusalem August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
A car is parked outside the offices of U.S.-based Christian charity World Vision in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The international charity World Vision says Israel has accused the charity’s Gaza Strip director of funneling what appears to be an impossible sum of money to Hamas.

The Shin Bet security agency said last week that Mohammed el-Halabi confessed to siphoning about $7.2 million a year to Hamas over five years. The agency says this is roughly 60 percent of World Vision’s total Gaza budget.

World Vision Germany spokeswoman Silvia Holten said on Monday the charity’s budget in Gaza in the last decade totaled $22.5 million. She says World Vision has stopped its Gaza operations amid investigations. Germany and Australia have suspended donations to World Vision in Gaza.

Holten says “there is a huge gap in these numbers the Israeli government is telling and what we know.”

Israel indicted el-Halabi last Thursday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon speculated that World Vision’s budget does not include in-kind donations.

“They are trying to belittle their role and to show they are much smaller than they really are,” Nachshon said of World Vision. He did not provide proof of his claim, but said el-Halabi’s legal team will have access to the evidence. He added that el-Halabi confessed to his crimes.

Holten said the World Vision budget includes all in-kind donations, but she did not provide a detailed report of the organization’s spending in Gaza in recent years. She said World Vision performs stringent internal audits and commissions external audits from outside companies as well.