NEW YORK - A UN engineer, who had worked in the Gaza Strip and was indicted in August for abusing his post in order to aid Hamas, was sentenced to seven months in jail on Wednesday after reaching a plea deal with an Israeli court.
The man, Wahid Abdullah al-Bursh, is an employee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which undertakes such projects as rehabilitating Gaza Strip homes damaged in warfare.
He has worked as a UNDP engineer since 2003 and was tasked with overseeing the demolition of homes and evacuating the waste.
According to a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) investigation, Bursh was approached shortly after the 2014 Gaza war by Husseini Suleiman, a messenger for senior Hamas commander Abu Anas al-Andor, who asked him to use his position to help the terrorist organization.
He was found guilty of providing “services to an illegal organization without intent to cause harm”, by helping build the naval commando port in the northern Gaza Strip in April and May 2015 and using his authority to transfer to the site 300 tons of construction materials to Hamas.
Under the terms of his plea deal, the court has taken into account the period Al-Bursh spent in custody awaiting the verdict, and he will therefore be released next week, on January 12.
In reaction to the outcome, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said “it is unacceptable that humanitarian organizations that are intended to better the lives of civilian, are instead used to aid terrorists.”
“We continue to call on the United Nations to implement strict oversight mechanisms to ensure that are not exploited by the vicious terrorists whose only aim is to murder Jews and destroy the State of Israel,” he added.
A spokesperson for UNDP assured that the agency “has zero tolerance for wrongdoing in its programs and is committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”
“UNDP will continue to ensure that any misconduct is immediately brought to light and addressed appropriately,” they added.
The office of the new Secretary-General to the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said it is still “studying the verdict” and has not yet released a statement on the matter.
Back in August when Al-Bursh was first indicted, Ambassador Danon had called on then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to put an end to the “exploitation” of the world body by Hamas, explaining that this was not an isolated case, but rather “a troubling trend of the systematic exploitation by Hamas terrorists of UN organizations.”
“If the UN truly wants to better the lives of the residents of Gaza, it must remove every employee working for the Hamas and sever all ties with organizations aiding terrorists,” Danon continued.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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