Israel arrests head of Turkish humanitarian group in Gaza for financing Hamas

The investigation revealed that Murtaja was recruited to Hamas in late 2008 and since 2009 has served in the group's military wing.

Israel has been charging that Hamas operatives have "infiltrated" worldwide aid organizations in the Gaza Strip to funnel money to the Islamist group.

Israel also says the Turkish Islamic charity group IHH has been funneling funds to Hamas for years in the guise of humanitarian aid.

He was involved in a range of terrorist activities and support, including Hamas military training and exercises, manufacturing weapons and explosive devices and digging terror tunnels, and was planning to obtain information that would improve the accuracy of Hamas rockets targeting Israel.

According to the security agency, Murtaja took advantage of his position in TIKA in order to direct funds and resources away from "meaningful humanitarian projects" and toward Hamas's military wing.

In fact, Hamas senior officials provided these lists to Murtaja, and most of the so-called "needy" people on them were actually terrorists in the Hamas military wing or their family members.

The Shin Bet affirms that intelligence gathered from the suspect indicates considerable efforts by Hamas to prepare for a military conflict with Israel, at the expense of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. "Murtaja even stored weapons, such as hand grenades and guns, in his home", according to the Shin Bet.

Last year, Israel arrested Muhammad al-Halabi, the Gazan head of worldwide charity World Vision, on charges similar to those faced by Murtaja.

A United Nations rights expert issued a scathing report criticizing Israel's policies Monday, just a few days after the world body withdrew a report that accused Israel of "apartheid" against Palestinians after USA and Israeli pressure.

But an Australian government investigation later found that the funds had not been diverted as had been claimed by Israel, Australia's ABC News reported Tuesday. World Vision itself is also conducting an independent review of its operations to determine whether any graft occurred.

Halabi's trial is ongoing.

The United States had expressed outrage over the report's findings and demanded that it be scrapped, but Guterres' spokesman has denied that the request to Khalaf to withdraw the study was made under U.S. pressure.

Israel has reportedly agreed to several such payments, including one last summer by Qatar of 113 million Saudi riyal ($31 million) for salaries.

"Chronic violations of worldwide human rights law and global humanitarian law by all parties have persisted", the secretary general's office said, condemning Israel over settlement expansion among other offenses.

  • Leroy Wright