The Israeli Defense Minister has wasted no time seizing over $800K in cryptocurrencies believed to have been sent to Hamas to fund its military activities.
The ground is shrinking beneath Hamas’ feet, as Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz deals another blow to its efforts to circumvent traditional financial channels. The Minister has authorized the seizure of over $800K worth of cryptocurrencies believed to have been used to fund Hamas. This funding is believed to have reached Hamas through a cryptocurrency exchange owned by a Gazan family. This exchange is known to transfer large sums to Hamas annually and has been labeled as a terrorist organization by Israel.
Hamas operates a sophisticated network of currency exchanges that allow goods and funds to be imported to fund its military operations. The funding network was exposed via Israeli Defence Forces intelligence, the National Headquarters on Terrorist Economic Counter-Terrorism at the Defence Ministry, the cybercrimes department of the Israel Police’s Lahav 443 Major Crimes Unit, and the State Attorney’s Office’s Cyber Unit.
Gazan family exchange implicated
The Defense Minister recently authorized the seizure of crypto wallets belonging to the aforementioned Gazan family, which was using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to raise funds for Hamas online. This exchange has been on the radar of Israeli authorities for a few years now.
In 2019, the Israel Defense Forces assassinated Hamed Ahmed Khudari in Gaza, who had used digital currencies to transfer Iranian money to Hamas and fund jihad. The funds were used to build rockets that were deployed against Israel. Following this assassination, activity increased on the exchange, drawing suspicion, and further investigation.
Nowhere to hide
In early 2020, the U.S. Justice Department announced the deconstruction of terrorism financing campaigns run by Hamas’ military wing, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also known as ISIS. The Hamas’ military wing called al-Qassam Brigades offered instructional videos on how to donate cryptocurrencies, earmarked for use in violent activities, anonymously. Multiple U.S. authorities, including the Independent Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were able to track and seize all cryptocurrency accounts used to send money to al-Qassam Brigades and conduct searches on U.S. citizens suspected to have sent donations.
Al-Qaeda operated a bitcoin money-laundering network that used Telegram channels and other social media platforms to garner donations. At the time, this seizure by U.S. authorities was the largest seizure of cryptocurrency used in terrorism. Over 300 cryptocurrency accounts and millions of dollars were seized.
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