Palestinian militants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas' armed wing, take part in a rally in Gaza City.
(photo credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
The Australian government said it will suspend funds to Christian mega charity World Vision's Gaza and West Bank operations after it was revealed that aid money was stolen by Hamas for "military" purposes.
According to a report in The Australian on Friday, the country's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said funds would be halted while the government looks into the “deeply troubling” allegations.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that “aid to the Palestinian Territories is intended for vital humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian community.”
“Any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military or terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored and can only harm the Palestinian people,” it said in a statement.
A two-month Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) investigation, announced on Thursday, showed that Hamas redirected tens of millions of dollars – 60 percent – of the organization’s budget to its “military” wing.
The World Vision organization, which operates in 100 countries and employs 46,000 people, fell victim to a complex Hamas takeover scheme, a senior Shin Bet source said Thursday, adding that Hamas’s armed wing stole $7.2 million a year from the budget, which was supposed to pay for food, humanitarian assistance, and aid programs for disabled children, and channeled the funds to buy weapons, build attack tunnels, and to other preparations for war with Israel.
World Vision responded that it was “shocked” by Israel’s allegations and that it had regular internal and independent audits and evaluations as well as a broad range of internal controls to ensure aid reached intended beneficiaries.
“Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true. We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence,” the charity’s statement said.Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.