A senior aid worker in Gaza has been arrested on suspicion of channelling charity funds to the Islamist terrorist group Hamas.
Muhammad Murtaja, who is employed by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (Tika), has been accused by Israeli officials of “cooperating with Hamas; being a member of an enemy organisation; having contact with enemy spies; and plotting against state security”.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said Mr Murtaja was arrested at the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel last month while travelling to take part in a training course run by Tika. The IDF alleges that Mr Murtaja had an ulterior motive for the trip: the intention “to acquire information that would increase the accuracy of Hamas rockets launched at Israel”.
The IDF claims that Mr Murtaja, who is Palestinian, has been working for the military branch of Hamas for nearly a decade.
“Murtaja deceived Tika by misusing the organisation’s resources and funds, which were intended for substantial humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, by diverting them to Hamas’s military wing,” said the IDF report.
As the Tika coordinator in Gaza since 2012, Mr Murtaja would pass lists of Gaza residents eligible for financial assistance to Tika. The IDF alleges these were in fact lists of Hamas terrorists and their families.
Mr Murtaja is accused of handing Tika aid packages “intended for impoverished Gazans to the Hamas military wing” and enabling the “diversion of millions of shekels to the Hamas military wing”.
He is also suspected of involvement in terrorist training exercises, manufacturing weapons and digging raid tunnels.
The lawyer Haleed Zeberqa, speaking to Andalou Agency on behalf of Mr Murtaja, strongly denied all the allegations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Mr Murtaja would be given legal support and was considered innocent until proven guilty.
A hearing of the case is scheduled tomorrow.