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Murtaja
Gaza coordinator of Turkish aid group funneled funds to Hamas
Muhammad Murtaja, an employee of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, is suspected of misusing resources and funds intended for humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip by diverting them to Hamas’s military wing.
The Shin Bet arrested Muhammad Murtaja, the head of the Gaza branch of a humanitarian assistance program run by the Turkish government, for funneling significant resources and funds to Hamas’ military wing, it was cleared for publication on Tuesday.

 

 

Murtaja was the coordinator of the Gaza branch of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) organization. According to the Shin Bet, was recruited by Hamas at the end of 2008.

 

Murtaja’s activities with Hamas allegedly included military training, weapons manufacturing and storage, and the diversion of aid funds to Hamas for military purposes.

 

Muhammad Murtaja
Muhammad Murtaja

   

Murtaja was arrested and sent for questioning when he attempted to ostensibly travel through Israel to receive training from TİKA. Apparently, the trip was also meant to acquire information that would improve the accuracy of Hamas rockets being fired at Israel.

 

The Shin Bet's investigation and Murtaja’s interrogation uncovered the various fraud techniques Murtaja used.

 

For example, he would give his superiors in TİKA a list of impoverished residents in the Gaza Strip who were candidates to receive financial aid. These lists actually came from Hamas senior officials, while most of the so-called “needy” people on them were actually members of Hamas's military wing or their relatives. In this manner, they received benefits and stipends.

 

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In another scheme, Murtaja managed to funnel millions of shekels to members of the Hamas military wing during and after Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

 

For instance, food aid packages donated by TİKA for the destitute population in the Gaza Strip were given to members of the Hamas military wing. In addition, when Operation Protective Edge ended, the organization financed a public event, at which Hamas military members were awarded stipends and benefits.

 

According to a statement from the Shin Bet, “During the course of the investigation, Murtaja provided a great deal of operative information including tunnel routes, the methods used by Hamas in digging the tunnels, action plans for fighting, and weapons manufacturing.”

 

The statement went on to say that the investigation “demonstrates the diverse fraudulent methods used by Hamas vis-à-vis the international community and humanitarian aid organizations. These acts of fraud, involving the highest levels of Hamas leadership, divert money and resources meant to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and the destitute population therein. This fraud gives Hamas more room to use all its material and economic resources for acts of terror and military buildup.”

 

Turkish officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum dismissed the Israeli claims as "lies and fabrications" aimed at harming charity work in Gaza.

 

"This is a clear frightening of the donor countries and international organizations to end their work in Gaza so the suffering will increase and the siege will tighten," he said. He called on international organizations to "resist the pressure and keep up their work in Gaza."

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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