"The arrest, six-year trial, unjust verdict, and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank," World Vision said.
On Tuesday, Beersheba District Court in southern Israel sentenced the director of a major international aid group to 12 years in prison for funneling funds to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which has run the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The court sentenced Mohammad El Halabi, former head of the Gaza office of the U.S.-based charity World Vision, to "12 years' prison time, less the six years he already served in detention." The court also sentenced El Halabi to additional 18 months of probation.
The sentence followed his conviction in June, in which the court found him guilty of transferring "tens of millions of shekels" (1 shekel equals 0.30 U.S. dollar) and "tons of iron" to Hamas. El Halabi, 45, has denied all allegations. Human rights defenders and independent media, however, have questioned such a version.
"The alleged millions diverted to Hamas exceed World Vision's total US$22 million budget in Gaza over the past 10 years," outlet Causa Arabe recalled, adding that detailed forensic audits conducted by World Vision found no funds whatsoever to be missing.
All respect & appreciation to all members of the Australian Parliament & to the Minister of Foreign Affairs & the PM for their support of the prisoner Mohammed Al-Halabi world Vision director@SenatorWong @AlboMP @WilkieMP @AliciaPayneMP @RichardBurgon pic.twitter.com/TvhSRygmGQ— Khalil El Halabi (@KhalilElHalabi1) August 24, 2022
The sentence "is deeply disappointing and in sharp contrast to the evidence and facts of the case," World Vision said through a statement.
"The arrest, six-year trial, unjust verdict and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank. It adds to the chilling impact on World Vision and other aid or development groups working to assist Palestinians," said World Vision.
World Vision and other charity groups work in Gaza to help ease a crisis caused by the Israeli blockade imposed on the Palestinian enclave since 2007.