Australia suspended funding to World Vision projects in the Palestinian Territories on Friday after the charity’s head in Gaza was charged with funneling money to Hamas fighters and buying weapons.
The move came after World Vision official Mohammad El Halabi appeared in an Israeli court in Beersheba on Thursday facing charges of using charity funds to support the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said the allegations were "deeply troubling," adding that officials were seeking more information from World Vision and Israeli authorities.
"We are suspending the provision of further funding to World Vision for programs in the Palestinian Territories until the investigation is complete," the department said in a statement.
Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet alleges that Hamas recruited Halabi more than a decade ago, before he took over World Vision projects in Gaza in 2010, the Australian broadcaster ABC reported.
But World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello told the ABC that Halabi had worked with the charity for 10 years and that he had no reason to believe the allegations.
"I am profoundly shocked, and they are very explosive allegations," Costello said.
The Australian government has given the charity more than 5 million Australian dollars ($3.8 million US) over the past three years for aid projects in the Gaza Strip, the ABC said.
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