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Australia said it was suspending funding for major charity World Vision late Thursday, hours after Israeli officials accused the group’s manager in Gaza of funneling tens of millions of dollars in aid money to terror group Hamas.
The decision by Canberra came as Israeli officials fumed over what the Shin Bet security service said was a “systematic and sophisticated mechanism” built by senior employee Mohammed el-Halabi to divert up to $50 million over the years to the group, which rules Gaza, creating fictitious humanitarian projects and doctoring inflated receipts in order to get the funds to Hamas.
“Any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military or terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored,” the Australian government said in a statement.
Australia has donated some $3.8 million to World Vision in Gaza over the past three years, according to Australian network ABC. Last year, Halabi took ambassador Dave Sharma on a tour through strawberry fields supported by the Australian aid.
The station reported that the foreign ministry in Canberra was treating the probe with the highest priority.