The United Nations on Friday rejected Israeli claims that one of its aid workers in the Palestinian Territories is a "terrorist" who belongs to the radical Islamist Hamas movement.
"INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE!! Dr Sahil al Hindi, senior at #UNWRA Gaza, appointed to #Hamas leadership. Maybe that's how #Hamas looks for funding?!?" Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote on Twitter, describing al Hindi as a "terrorist."
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) "has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member's denial that he was elected to political office," the agency said in a statement.
"Staff members are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is inconsistent or might adversely reflect upon the independence and impartiality required by their status," the UNRWA statement went on to say.
Israel arrested an engineer from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Gaza Strip last year, accusing him of transporting 300 tons of building rubble from a UNDP project to a Hamas port.
Shortly before that, Israel had arrested a Palestinian worker for the aid organization World Vision on the Gaza border for allegedly funnelling millions in aid money to Hamas.
The worker, Mohammed el-Halabi, pleaded not guilty to all charges when he appeared in court in February.
Hamas - which is labelled a terrorist organization by Israel, The European Union and the United States - seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Also on Friday, Israel denied a leading employee from Human Rights Watch (HRW) a work permit. "The decision was taken because of the extremely hostile and anti-Israeli agenda of the organization," a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
Israel is not willing to provide a work permit for an organization which has the clear aim of harming the nation, he said.
The ban was directed at Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine country director.
"This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel's commitment to basic democratic values," said Iain Levine, HRW's deputy executive director of programme, in a statement.
"It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda."
The statement said the development was "particularly surprising" as HRW had regular meetings with the Israeli government and it marked "an ominous turn" after almost 30 years of unhindered access for HRW workers in Israel and the West Bank.
Organizations which are critical of the Israeli government complain of an increasingly difficult working environment.
Israel passed a law last year that forces groups that receive their money from outside the country to report the fact in all publications, a move that critics say is aimed primarily at left-leaning groups.