Muhammad Murtaja falsified lists of needy Gazans, transferred aid packages, and diverted millions of shekels to the terror group.
It has been cleared for release that Gaza resident Muhammad Murtaja, the coordinator of the Gaza branch of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) organization, was arrested by the Israeli Security Agency with the help of the Israel Police in February 2017. Murtaja was arrested on suspicion of working for the military wing of Hamas.
Murtaja was arrested after traveling through Israel to receive training from TİKA. His trip served a dual purpose – he also intended to acquire information that would increase the accuracy of Hamas rockets launched at Israel.
The ISA investigation revealed that Murtaja was recruited by Hamas’s military wing in the end of 2008. By early 2009, he was already an active member of the terror group, participating in military training and exercises, manufacturing weapons and explosive devices, and digging terror tunnels. Murtaja even stored weapons, such as hand grenades and guns, in his home.
Murtaja exploited his position to divert funds from Gaza’s poor to the terror group. The investigation showed that Murtaja deceived TİKA by misusing the organization’s resources and funds, which were intended for substantial humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, by diverting them to Hamas’s military wing. This fraud was carried out in collusion with the senior ranks of Hamas in Gaza, headed by Ismail Haniyeh.
As the Gaza branch coordinator for TİKA, he would give his supervisors lists of Gaza residents who qualified for financial assistance – which turned out to be lists of Hamas terrorists and their families, supplied by Hamas leaders. After Operation Protective Edge, Murtaja also handed over aid packages of food donated by TİKA, intended for impoverished Gazans, to the Hamas military wing. During and after the operation, Murtaja enabled the diversion of millions of shekels to the Hamas military wing.
Murtaja’s interrogation revealed the depth of his collusion with Hamas. He divulged information about tunnel routes, the methods used by Hamas in digging the tunnels, action plans for fighting, and weapons manufacturing.
This is far from the first time that Hamas has recruited and exploited the positions of humanitarian workers in order to divert aid intended for Gaza’s civilians to terror. In August 2016, Waheed Borsh, a UNDP official, was indicted for using his position to provide funds and weapons to the terror group. In June 2016, Mohammed El-Halabi, who worked for the international charity World Vision, funneled tens of millions of dollars in charity funds to Hamas.
Together with information obtained from other ISA investigations, Murtaja’s confessions show the considerable efforts Hamas has invested in preparing for another military confrontation with Israel at the expense of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. By taking money out of the hands of Gaza’s needy to fund terror, Hamas has already proven that they prioritize harming Israelis over the welfare of Gazans.