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Palestinian aid head convicted of terrorism

The Director of Gaza operations for the Christian charity World Vision was found guilty of funneling tens of millions of dollars in relief funds to the Islamist Hamas terror group.

By Erin Viner

The District Court in the Israeli city of Beersheba found Mohammad El Halabi guilty of supporting a terrorist organization but acquitted him of treason. His sentencing date has been set for next month.

Halabi was arrested in June 2016 on charges of embezzling as much as $50 million to supply funds for payment of Hamas terrorists, weapons other illegal activities of the Gaza rulers’ attacks against Israelis. He had also faced charges of contact with an enemy agent and aiding an enemy during war.

The full verdict was classified but the judges said their conviction was founded on the Palestinian convict’s confession, which they described as “detailed, coherent, with signals of truth and particular details.” The court underscored that the admission was corroborated by evidence and witness testimonies.

El Halabi, seated in a guarded court booth as the sentence was handed down, which he received through an Arabic translator, later rescinded his confession.

Attorney Maher Hanna announced his client’s intention to appeal the decision.

World Vision, which focuses on helping children, said El Halabi had been employed for 10 years. Spokesperson Sharon Marshall acknowledged the verdict “with disappointment” and said the organization would support El Halabi’s appeal.

Dozens of Palestinians gathered in Gaza with posters of El Halabi in a show of support. His father Khalil El Halabi denounced the verdict and proclaimed his son’s innocence.

In related developments, Israel’s Corporation Authority (ICA), which oversees Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) activities, has petitioned a Jerusalem court to dissolve World Vision operations in the country.

A 2021 review of the organization by the Department of Non-Profit Associations and Charitable Companies determined there were “serious flaws” in World Vision’s activities that involved the transfer of funds to parties “known to be terror operatives,” although the report did not elaborate on whether those “terror operatives” specifically meant El Halabi or additional suspects. A judge is set to rule on the matter later this month.