On November 12, 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, has shifted its financing methods to cryptocurrencies, enabling it to receive financial support from Iran while evading detection.
This shift followed an Israeli military strike that targeted a Hamas commander, whom Israel claimed was Iran’s main financier in Gaza. The commander had been operating an off-the-books system of remittances, using trusted agents to transport physical cash and goods across borders.
However, with the strike on the Hamas commander, a Palestinian businessman named Zuhair Shamlakh took over and devised a new strategy to evade Israeli detection – the use of digital currencies. His money exchanges began sending tokens to operators abroad to settle hawala balances. These exchanges, affiliated with Hamas, could then convert the received crypto into cash at their offices in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli authorities, particularly the National Bureau for Counter-Terror Financing, issued seven orders to seize crypto funds held by three of the Gaza-based exchanges. BitOK, an analytics and software firm based in Tel Aviv, revealed that wallets connected to these exchanges received a total of $41 million in crypto funds, while wallets linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad received a further $93 million.
Economist Nouriel Roubini tweeted the report stating, “The pivot to digital currencies helped Hamas receive large sums from Iran in the two years preceding the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. The pivot to digital currencies helped Hamas receive large sums from Iran in the two years preceding the attacks on Israel.”
Officials at the National Bureau for Counter-Terror Financing stress that a significant portion of the funds received by the Gaza-based exchanges were intended for Hamas. At the time of writing, Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) was trading at $37,057.55 up 0.29% in the last 24 hours, according to Benzinga Pro.
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