Who is Ibrahim al-Organi, accused of accusing Palestinians of fleeing Gaza?

He is an Egyptian tycoon little known outside the region.

Tycoon Ibrahim al-Organi, president of Organi Group, oversees a vast network of companies involved in the construction, real estate and security sectors. He maintains close ties with senior Egyptian officials, according to three people who followed the report and who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their work in the region.

But it is Hala – a company that Organi Group has listed as one of its own – that is getting the most attention. Hala has emerged as a lifeline for Palestinians trying to flee war-torn Gaza, but it has also been accused of squeezing desperate people with exorbitant fees. In an interview this month, Mr. Organi spoke at length and in detail about Hala's activities, although he said that his role in the company was limited and that he was just one of many shareholders.

Hala officials did not respond to emailed questions.

Hala has long been listed on Organi Group's website as one of the conglomerate's companies, but the reference appeared to have been removed recently. Organi Group did not respond to a request for comment on why it had removed Hala from the website.

Organi Group has at least eight businesses. The company lists Mr. Organi as president and his son, Essameldin Organi, as chief executive.

The elder Mr. Organi, according to the company's website, has built “a diversified business empire that serves as the inseparable backbone of the Egyptian economy in countless fields.”

In the interview in his office in Cairo, Mr. Organi described Hala as a tour company, “just like any company that exists in an airport.” It was established in 2017, he said, to provide VIP services to Palestinian travelers who wanted a better experience crossing Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city.

According to people who paid for his services during the war, Hala charged most Gazans over the age of 16 for $5,000, and most of those under the age of 16 half as much, $2,500. , to coordinate their outings. They also said VIP service was missing.

Mr. Organi says Hala charges $2,500 per adult – and nothing for children.

Mr. Organi was born in 1974 in the Egyptian border town of Sheikh Zuweid near Gaza.

He says he is simply a shareholder or partner of any company with Gaza-related business. But in the interview, he said his companies played a key role in rebuilding Gaza, including clearing rubble, after a previous round of war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.

His Instagram account features several videos showing earthmoving equipment clearing destroyed buildings in Gaza City in 2021. Text under many videos emphasizes that the work was carried out based on “instructions from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.” .

Mr. Organi also rents trucks to help groups transporting supplies into the territory and procures some of those same supplies.

Weeks after the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that led to the war, Mr. Organi appeared on the Egypt-Gaza border and pledged support for Palestinians in Gaza.

“We will not hesitate,” he said in a speech broadcast by Egyptian media. “They are our brothers.”

Mr. Organi also says he is in talks to potentially participate in the reconstruction of Gaza after the war.

Mr. Organi has maintained close ties with members of the Egyptian government, using his influence to advance his business interests, according to two diplomats familiar with the matter.

He was already a well-known businessman in the Sinai when he rose to prominence in the 2010s after working with the Egyptian army to fight militants in the peninsula who claimed affiliation with the Islamic State.

In the interview, Mr. Organi said he led the Union of Sinai Tribes, a state-backed group that helped fight militants on the peninsula.

“God helped us reunite the tribes under the Union flag again and put me as chief,” he said. “We decided to help the government completely eliminate terrorist groups.”

In 2022, el-Sisi appointed Organi as one of two non-governmental members of the Sinai Development Authority, responsible for development initiatives on the peninsula. Mr. Organi recently announced that he, along with other tribal figures, will build a city named after Mr. el-Sisi in Sinai.

He said that doesn't mean he has a special relationship with the president and that others are involved.

“We are known for our strong support for President Sisi and we love him,” Organi said, “but it's not like we're the only ones.”

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