How did Hamas, apparently disconnected from the worldwide monetary framework as a designated terrorist group, acquire the resources to execute such a lethal and seemingly advanced unexpected assault on Israel?
It has been highlighted that cryptocurrency has played a notable part in recent events. Specifically, more than 100 Binance exchange accounts have been frozen and are currently being investigated due to suspicious activities. However, it is essential to note that cryptocurrency represents just a fraction of the broader picture regarding the issue of terror financing.
TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence company, has detected several fundraising initiatives since the conflict commenced. As an illustration, a group based in Gaza known as Gaza Now, which provides active support to Hamas, is currently seeking contributions in the form of cryptocurrency.
The addresses utilized by Gaza Now have witnessed a cumulative influx and outflow of approximately $6,000 after the assaults, with an overall sum of roughly $6 million. During the period from August 2021 to July 2022, an address in Gaza Now reportedly received a sum of $12,000 from a known organization affiliated with Palestine Islamic Jihad, which is known to support Hamas.
Initially operational in August 2021, the mentioned location has accumulated approximately $800,000, along with a crypto value below $5,000 after the incidents. Nevertheless, the figures mentioned are significantly lower when compared to other methods of raising funds through traditional financial institutions.
Terrorist organizations such as Hamas heavily depend on assistance from the global community for their sustenance. According to the U.S. Department of State, Iran provides an approximate amount of $100 million annually in fiat currency. Countries like Qatar and Turkey also contribute funding. Various European countries, the United States, and even Israel have extended substantial humanitarian aid to Gaza throughout the years, which may have inadvertently contributed to the funding of Hamas’ detrimental actions.
Apart from receiving assistance from various nation-states, Hamas maintains an extensive network of charitable organizations worldwide and welcomes contributions from private individuals. According to reports from Euronews, the organization generates a significant amount of revenue, estimated to be up to $15 million annually, through taxes imposed on goods imported from Egypt and the West Bank.
The movement of funds to Hamas in digital currencies is highly detectable and straightforward to monitor, obstruct, and confiscate. Due to the inherent characteristics of public blockchains – such as traceability, transparency, and immutability – authorities from Israel and the United States have achieved considerable success in the process of tracing, tracking, and confiscating funds intended for Hamas.
Israeli authorities may have been focusing on places connected to these fundraising efforts, which could explain why Gaza Now and other groups supporting Hamas only get a few donations. Specific fundraising initiatives have made a public announcement stating that they are currently refraining from accepting any further contributions, at least through public channels, because their financial accounts have become the target of malicious activities.
On October 9, following the recent terrorist incident, GazaNow decided to halt its solicitations to the general public initiatives. Instead, they advised their followers to utilize personal messaging channels for further engagement and support.
Efforts Made to Raise Money for Charity Since the War Began
In addition, on October 10, the internet-based branch of the Lahav 433 unit of the Israeli National Police reported that Bitcoin accounts tied to Hamas had been seized. According to the Israeli Police, Hamas has been exploiting social media identities since the attacks on October 7 to seek financial contributions from users.
Lahav 433 is aiding the Defense Ministry, the Shin Bet, as well as other spy agencies in their attempts to remove cryptocurrency conduits that terrorist organizations are using. These agencies are working in conjunction with Lahav 433.
On Monday, the company that created the stablecoin Tether announced that it had frozen the funds in 32 cryptocurrency addresses tied to terrorism in Israel and Ukraine and that it was working with Israel’s National Bureau for Counter-Terror Financing. Recent findings from TRM Labs’ research, which was published not too long ago, suggest that USDT transactions on the TRON blockchain are the preferred way to fund terrorist organizations.
Hamas Was One Of The Very First Terrorist Organizations To Make Use Of Crypto
Starting in early 2019, the Izz-Al Din-Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, has explored using cryptocurrencies as an alternative fundraising method for its military activities. Hamas began its exploration of cryptocurrency fundraising by seeking Bitcoin BTC 0.0% contributions on its Telegram channel but later transitioned to conducting direct fundraising on its website, alqassam.net.
In August 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a global disruption of three terror financing campaigns. This operation involved the seizure of cryptocurrency accounts linked to the al-Qassam Brigades. As per the DOJ announcement, the “three terror finance campaigns were all dependent on advanced cyber-tools, which included the request for cryptocurrency donations from various regions globally.”
In the initial instance, the al-Qassam Brigades issued a plea on its social media platform for Bitcoin contributions to support its campaign of violence, subsequently relocating the appeal to its authorized online platforms. Collaboratively, a group of agents from IRS-CI, HSI, and FBI successfully monitored and confiscated 150 cryptocurrency accounts involved in transferring funds to and from charges associated with the al-Qassam Brigades.
Through the proper legal channels, law enforcement agencies were granted permission to confiscate the online infrastructure belonging to the al-Qassam Brigades. As a result, they proceeded to assume control over the website known as alqassam.net. During that undercover mission, monetary resources from individuals aiming to offer tangible assistance to the extremist group were directed toward accounts overseen by United States law enforcement.
Us to Crack Down Harder on Crypto Companies Helping Terrorist
On Friday, Wally Adeyemo, the U.S. deputy Treasury secretary, issued a warning that the U.S. will pursue cryptocurrency firms that do not prevent terrorist groups from transferring funds.
If preventive measures against unauthorized financial transactions are not taken,” stated Mr. Adeyemo during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London, “the responsibility of addressing this issue will fall upon the United States and its allies.
Adeyemo’s remarks come in response to a letter penned by Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren and numerous congressional members earlier this month. The letter urged the Biden administration to take decisive action against terrorist organizations’ use of cryptocurrency. According to a report, the terror organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have accumulated over $130 million in cryptocurrency over the past few years.
Israel Is Also Not Standing on the Sidelines
In the past few years, the NBCTF of Israel has consistently focused on the utilization of cryptocurrency by Hamas, confiscating numerous cryptocurrency addresses containing substantial monetary value, which are under the control of entities associated with Hamas. Most of the seized funds primarily consisted of Tether on the Tron system.
In July 2021, a copy of an administrative seizure was released by the NBCTF regarding Bitcoin, dogecoin, TRON, and various other cryptocurrency addresses under the control of individuals associated with Hamas.
The seizure of NBCF highlighted the increasing complexity of terrorist financing operations, as they employ multiple networks and currencies to avoid sanctions and evade detection from authorities.
In 2021, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, a senior Hamas official stated that the organization’s fundraising strategies are changing due to increasing restrictions imposed upon it. The anticipated progression will entail a persistent transition towards multi-asset contributions and progressively advanced cleansing methods.
In April, the Al-Qassam Brigades discontinued accepting Bitcoin donations due to concerns about donors’ well-being and potential vulnerability. The organization noted an escalation in hostile activities targeting individuals seeking to help the resistance using this particular currency.
As Israel carries out a kinetic response, terrorist leaders are being pursued, and hostage rescue operations are being planned. A significant emphasis is also placed on diminishing the utilization of cryptocurrency for fundraising purposes within these terrorist organizations.
As the digital world changes quickly, people who fund terrorism will likely try to use blockchains to make sending large amounts of money more accessible. However, authorities in various countries, such as the United States, Israel, and other nations worldwide, will use blockchain technology to prevent such activities.