World Vision suspends work in Gaza after arrest

But a statement from the chief executive of World Vision International casts doubt on the validity of the accusations against its manager of operations

World Vision website
World Vision website

The Christian aid charity World Vision has suspended its Gaza operation and will undergo an externally-conducted forensic audit after the charity’s manager of operations in the area was charged by Israeli security with supporting Hamas.

According to the charity, Mohammad El Halabi was charged on 4 August by Israeli authorities with providing support to Hamas.

Media reports claim that El Halabi siphoned approximately £5.3m a year from World Vision to Hamas, with approximately £60,000 in British donations among the money diverted.

In a statement released yesterday, Kevin Jenkins, president and chief executive of World Vision International, said the seriousness of the allegations meant the charity had suspended its operations in Gaza and would undertake a full review.

But Jenkins cast doubt on some of the media reports regarding the amount of money El Halabi had been accused of taking.

He said World Vision’s cumulative operating budget in Gaza over the past 10 years was $22.5m, "which makes the alleged amount of up to $50m being diverted hard to reconcile".

Jenkins said that El Halabi had only been in his current role since October 2014, and that before then he only managed portions of the Gaza budget.

He said the charity’s accountability processes also meant that the amount of money people in management positions at El Halabi’s level could sign off was capped at $15,000.

The statement said: "We will examine all the evidence behind the charges, and from those who independently examine our accountability standards.

"If any of these allegations are proven to be true, we will take swift and decisive action. "Unfortunately, we still have not seen any of the evidence. We look forward to an ongoing dialogue to be able to clarify discrepancies, and we call for a fair and transparent legal process."

Jenkins also defended the charity’s hiring processes, citing its use of background checks and "the well-regarded WatchDOG Elite system to screen staff against approximately 20 blocked-party lists".

The charity’s work with children in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank was also visited and reviewed by officials from the German and Australian governments, international donors and the charity’s staff, said Jenkins.

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