(Ilana Messika/TPS) The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) arrested on February Gazan Muhammad Murtaja, 29 years old, coordinator of the Gaza branch of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) organization, a humanitarian assistance program run by the Government of Turkey. Murtaja is suspected of membership in Hamas’ military wing (Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades).
The investigation revealed that Murtaja was recruited to Hamas in late 2008 and since 2009 has served in the group’s military wing. His activities have included, among others, military training and exercise, the manufacturing of weapons and explosive devices, as well as the digging of terror tunnels. Murtaja stored weapons including hand grenades and rifles in his home. His mission to Israel under the guise of his work for TIKA was mainly aimed at gathering intelligence to help Hamas improve the accuracy of the rockets the group routinely fires at Israel. This deception was carried out with the involvement of senior Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip, headed by Ismail Haniyeh.
TIKA defines its mandate to “promote humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip in light of the blockade, such as assisting in the equipment in the medical institutions.” The investigation revealed that Mourtaja deceived TIKA by exploiting the organization’s resources and budgets earmarked for humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip for the Hamas military wing. As an example, Mourtaja transferred to his managers in the TIKA organization lists of residents of the Gaza Strip as candidates “in need,” eligible for economic assistance, when in fact these lists contained names of Hamas military terrorist operatives and their families. In addition, millions of shekels and aid packages were transferred to Hamas operatives before and during 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
Murtaja’s interrogation yielded extensive operational information on tunnel routes, Hamas methods of tunnel digging, combat plans and weapons-manufacturing methods. The Shin Bet affirms that intelligence gathered from the suspect indicates considerable efforts by Hamas to prepare for a military conflict with Israel at the expense of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.