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Haniyeh reiterates denial that NGO workers diverted funds, material to Hamas in Gaza

Aug. 11, 2016 11:56 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 11, 2016 4:33 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Deputy head of Hamas’ politburo Ismail Haniyeh denied on Tuesday that the movement had any links to UN and international NGO employees who have been detained by Israel in the past few months.

Earlier this month, the Israeli government accused a Palestinian employee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Gaza of diverting funds to the Hamas movement, nearly a week after it announced Israeli forces had detained a Palestinian employee of NGO World Vision on similar grounds.

During a meeting with a Norwegian diplomat, Haniyeh condemned the Israeli detention campaign against staff of international organizations working in the besieged Gaza Strip.

"Israeli claims that international organization employees are affiliated to Hamas are completely false,” Haniyeh vehemently stated.

On Tuesday, Hamas senior spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the Israeli allegations “invalid and untrue,” adding that Hamas saw them as forming “part of Israel’s plan to reinforce the siege on the Gaza Strip by going after international organizations working in Gaza.”

The recent spate of detentions of aid workers over their alleged involvement with Hamas comes amid an already dire situation in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008, most recently in the summer of 2014.

The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the UN.

Since then, Israel has repeatedly restricted the amount of construction material allowed into the Gaza Strip, claiming that Hamas diverted portions of it.

The UN has said that the besieged Palestinian territory could become "uninhabitable" by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience the widespread destruction wrought by the Israeli offenses, and the slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for some 75,000 of Palestinians who remain displaced following the last Israeli assault.

Recovery efforts have also been hindered by a severe shortage of foreign funding.

Earlier this year, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which has played a leading role in rebuilding destroyed homes in the beleaguered coastal enclave, said that of the $720 million required for its emergency shelter program, donor countries had pledged only $247 million.
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