A British-based Islamic charity has been banned from helping Palestinians in the West Bank after it was accused of funding terrorism.
Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued the ruling against Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) late last week, accusing it of funding Hamas, an Islamist movement based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and listed as a terrorist organisation.
Ya’alon also declared that Israeli authorities would seize any funds the group sent to Palestinians in the West Bank.
The group, which denied the claims and has been working in Palestinian territories since 1994, aims to encourage social and economic development by creating jobs and encouraging entrepreneurship with interest-free loans.
“Islamic Relief Worldwide is surprised and extremely concerned by reports that Israel has banned IRW from operating in the West Bank because of alleged ties with Hamas,” the group said.
“IRW categorically denies having links with Hamas. We have heard nothing about this decision from the Government of Israel or any official sources. All we know is what has been reported in the media.”
Established 30 years ago, the charity is widely-recognised as being among the world’s most respected relief and development organisations.
It is a signatory to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements and NGOs in Disaster Relief and has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, working closely with the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and the UN’s refugee agency.
However, in a statement, Ya’alon said the decision had been made because some of the group’s activities in the West Bank were run by Hamas members.
“The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’s funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world,” he said. “We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.”
This week, the edict was being interpreted as part of Israel’s wider crackdown on Hamas, after accusing the group of abducting three Israeli teenagers who disappeared near a Jewish settlement a week ago. Hamas denies involvement.