The EU suspended its support to two Palestinian aid projects after Israel said humanitarian funds donated by numerous European governments had been channelled to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an armed group designated as a terrorist organisation by some world powers.
On Thursday, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency claimed that seven Palestinian aid groups working in the West Bank had "defrauded and deceived several European countries" of millions of euros which have helped finance the PFLP.
An Israeli official, speaking anonymously to reporters, said money from Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Sweden, Spain and the EU had been diverted to the PFLP.
"None of the governments knew where the money was going," the Israeli official said.
Israel’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the envoys of the relevant European countries.
A source at the German foreign ministry said it “is currently reviewing the information made available” and takes “any allegations and indications of links to terrorist organisations very seriously”.
The source added that its envoy in Tel Aviv had not been invited to the Israeli foreign ministry to discuss the topic.
“We welcome substantial dialogue with the Israeli authorities on safeguards and their specific concerns regarding the funding of civil society organisations,” an EU spokesperson said.
“The EU has offered, and intends to establish, a full-fledged dialogue on these matters. As a matter of course we look into each and every allegation made. We are studying the specific material shared with us.”
The Swiss foreign ministry said it "thoroughly examines all allegations against an organisation it supports and, if substantiated, measures are taken".
The Netherlands said it would review the information provided by Israel carefully, in consultation with European donors
Shin Bet said the humanitarian groups inflated invoices, forged bank documents, set up fake projects and boosted salaries to deceive the donors.
“EU rules make the participation of entities, individuals or groups affiliated with terrorist organisations categorically incompatible with any EU funding,” the EU spokesperson said.
“If there is clear evidence that any organisation has made inappropriate use of EU funds, the EU will take immediate appropriate measures to protect the integrity and proper use of its funds.
“In the meantime, we have suspended two ongoing projects to give us the time to conduct an immediate audit of activities,” they added.
The EU said it stood at the forefront of anti-terrorism efforts. All the European countries mentioned have been contacted for comment.
Shin Bet said it had identified four key suspects. One of those, Spanish citizen Juana Rashmawi, appeared in an Israeli military court on Thursday.