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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Israel arrests UN worker on charges of aiding Hamas

Israel has long warned that well-intentioned Western aid to Gaza was ending up in the hands of terrorists and the government has held up both arrests as proof of “how Hamas exploits the resources of international aid organisations at the expense of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip”.

In an indictment released on Tuesday, Israel said that Borsh had worked for UNDP since 2003 and was tasked with demolishing houses that had been damaged during war so they could be rebuilt. 

The Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of MI5, said he had used his position to support Hamas, for example helping the group to build a military jetty in the northern Gaza strip. 

He also allegedly helped Hamas conceal weapons and materials that were kept in UN houses and did not report them, in a violation of UN procedures. 

Israel said it had informed UNDP of the charges but the UN agency did not immediately respond to the claims. 

The charges are similar to those leveled against Mohammed el-Halabi, the World Vision employee, who allegedly funneled millions of dollars in donations to Hamas’s coffers.

Israel accused him of stealing around $7.2 million a year, or around 60 per cent of all of World Vision’s funds for Gaza. He took allegedly took a total of around $43 million over six years.

But the Christian charity has disputed those figures, saying that its total budget for Gaza over the last decade was only $22.5 million. 

The difference in numbers was “hard to reconcile”, said Keith Jenkins, the president of World Vision.

The Shin Bet said both Borsh and Mohammed El-Halabi, the World Vision employee, confessed to their involvement with Hamas after being arrested. 

Israel’s security services sometimes force detainees to stand in stress positions or deprive them of sleep or keep them in isolation for extended periods. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, a human rights group, says such techniques amount to torture. 

Mohammad Mahmoud, el-Halabi’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera that his client had been refused access to a lawyer for three weeks and claimed his interrogators “beat him a lot”. 

The charge sheet against el-Halabi also implicates a Palestinian employee of Save the Children but it is not clear if the man had already been arrested. 

Save the Children said it had not been informed of the accusations.  

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