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12 Dec, 2014 13:00

UK Islamic charity cleared of funding terror, Palestine aid work resumes

UK Islamic charity cleared of funding terror, Palestine aid work resumes

Britain’s biggest Islamic charity is expected to resume operations in the Palestinian territories despite being banned by Israel, which described it as a “terrorist organization.” The charity was cleared of allegations of funneling money to Hamas.

Earlier this year, Israel (and later the UAE) claimed Islamic Relief was using its donations to fund the Palestinian group Hamas.

As a result of these allegations the aid group suspended its work in the occupied West Bank, where the allegations were focused on and commissioned an audit. The Guardian reports that two days after the ban was announced, the charity’s West Bank offices were raided, computers smashed, files taken and the office safe destroyed.

It now says the audit of its activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has found “absolutely no evidence” to support accusations it has funded terrorism.

The group’s chief executive, Mohamed Ashmawey, said all of the charity’s 2,500 employees had been screened for “terror links” using software that checks against 540 databases and only one was found to have a “problem” because he had worked for the Islamic University of Gaza.

“Now we are contemplating resuming business because we are talking about 78,000 people – that is, orphans, widows, the elderly, the sick – and feeding them or caring for their health. These people have suffered over the past few months because of the Israeli ban,” Ashmawey told the Guardian.

Palestinians walk amidst destroyed buildings in al-Tufah, east of Gaza City on October 11, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hamas)

The charity, which spent £172 million (US$270 million) last year on aid and focuses on relief work, including health and education projects in the Palestinian territories, had been criticized several times by the Israeli press.

The temporary shutdown of the charity in the West Bank put an end to the aid group’s £5 million program in the area, which left the 78,000 people under its care without food and left hospitals without incubators and dialysis machines.

Islamic Relief operates in 44 countries and will now return to its “humanitarian work,” Ashmawey said.

READ MORE:‘War crime’: Amnesty Intl says IDF destroyed Gaza blocks as ‘collective punishment’

The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee said in a written statement that it “has considered the independent audit report which reviewed Islamic Relief's operations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

“We are satisfied that Islamic Relief has robust systems in place to ensure aid money is properly accounted for and spent appropriately. The DEC is not aware of any evidence that Islamic Relief has used aid funds inappropriately in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the UK said it supported its Defense Ministry’s original designation of the Islamic Relief as a terror organization. He told the Guardian: “The decision to designate the charity as an ‘unlawful association’ is part of Israel’s action to curb Hamas terror activity.”

Last month the UAE put Islamic Relief on a terror watch list along with 85 groups including Al-Qaida and the Islamic State.