Hamas Operates Sophisticated, Global Fundraising

An analysis of Hamas funding is extremely difficult as they are often funded in secret by other illegal organizations. However, it is estimated that Hamas has an operational budget of $300 million. Its top three political leaders have a combined net worth of $11 billion.

Hamas alleged Social Service wing is extremely active in raising funds six ways:

  1. Counterfeit charities
  2. Support from Iran, Turkey, and Qatar
  3. Taxation, extortion, smuggling and investments
  4. Money laundering and crypto
  5. Real charities and international support defrauded
  6. Support from relief agencies, also defrauded.

Counterfeit Charities

The Hamas affiliated charities claim to provide much needed funds to residents of Gaza who lack food and medical care. However, these have been demonstrated to be fronts for collecting finances towards their military wing. While some funds may reach their intended subjects, these charities, often run from outside Gaza and even sometimes based in the West, are elaborate fronts for Hamas’ military operations. They are persuasively named and well marketed, often with heartbreaking pictures of children in dire poverty. However, this window dressing has been proven to be a carefully orchestrated, highly wrought ruse to mislead donors.

In 2003 the United States Treasury designated the following 5 different purported charities operating from Europe and Lebanon, as terrorist organizations because of their support for Hamas:

1 Commite de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP), of France.

2 The Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), of Switzerland (related to the French CBSP).

3 The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, or Interpal, headquartered in the United Kingdom.

4.The Palestinian Association in Austria, PVOE.

5. The Sanabil Association for Relief and Development, based in Lebanon.

Also designated as terrorist in 2003 were several entities in the U.S. that formed part of the Hamas network, such as The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, and the Al Aqsa Foundation, both key sources of financial support for Hamas. In 2009 the leaders of the “charity” known as The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were convicted by the U.S. Justice Department for providing financial support to Hamas. Because of the international crackdown on Hamas-affiliated charities, the group has recently relied less on this fundraising method, although it remains a consistent source of income for them.

International Support From Other Governments

 According to counterterrorism analysts at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), international support, especially from Iran , has been constant in Hamas’ funding, estimating that Iran provides between a minimum of $100 million, but sometimes up to $700 million, annually. Iran is the third largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and produces about 3 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), or around 3 percent of total world output.

According to the U.S. State Department, the money is moved via shell companies, shipping transactions and precious metals. This support enables Iranians to reach beyond their borders, especially in their commitment to the destruction of Israel. Iran is comfortable deploying Arab Muslims to do their bidding, especially as these proxies also suffer the consequences of any reprisal. Iranians themselves should not suffer; hence other Arabs are paid to absorb the brunt of the response. Iran’s funding of Hamas ultimately offers a financially and politically expedient way to undermine Israel’s stability while maintaining an air of deniability regarding its involvement.

Turkey and Qatar, one of the top 15 oil exporting countries and one of the world’s major fertilizer producers, have been backing Hamas since 2007 when they took over the Gaza strip. Qatar has donated more than $1.8 billion to Hamas since then and hosted Hamas leadership in 2012 when Khaled Meshaal relocated from Syria to Qatar. The current head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh has been a resident in Doha since 2016. Effectively, Qatar hosts Hamas’ political office.

Qatari official Mohammed al-Emadi (left) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

Advocating for Hamas is politically beneficial to both Qatar and Turkey as the Palestinian cause draws popular support among their citizens. Turkey has become a stalwart supporter of Hamas, under the Islamist leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, providing financial and logistical support and has many times hosted senior Hamas officials. According to Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Hamas has established a command post in Turkey, which it uses to recruit operatives and oversee operations in the Middle East.

Local Taxation, Extortion, Smuggling and Investments

As Hamas now controls Gaza, it has the capacity to exploit the situation, harvesting its residents and taxing international aid. The largest source of income for Hamas recently has not been Iran; but income from controlling its territory, most likely in the range of $300- $450 million annually. As with many terrorist organizations that control land or trade routes, Hamas collects cash through taxation, extortion, smuggling and even kidnapping and robbery. They are in fact modern day pirates. Any business, aid (even humanitarian aid) and every truck in the endless procession of trucks that enter Gaza daily, are all taxed and extorted. Hamas oversees everything that crosses their borders and subsequently controls the region’s economic activity. It has collected revenue for years by taxing goods that moved through its tunnels and through the Salah al-Din border crossing. According to 2021 figures, Hamas has reportedly accumulated over $12 million per month from taxes on goods imported from Egypt. It also has its hand in local criminal activities, as the smuggling tunnels that were dug into Egypt were also taxed by Hamas. When Qatar donated $31 million in 2016, as a one-time grant to pay for Gaza civil servants’ salaries, Hamas taxed that donation. According to the Qataris, this payment was not meant to be used for salaries owed to security forces, but nobody except Hamas knows how it was spent.

With the funds raised from taxing and extorting residents of Gaza, Hamas officials make substantial business investments in real estate and construction corporations as well as mining and infrastructure companies in the Middle East and North Africa — some of which have been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department due to their affiliation with the group. The U.S. Treasury has said that by 2021 Hamas had established a secret network of companies managing $500 million of investments in companies from Turkey to Saudi Arabia. Sanctions were placed on these firms in May 2020 by the U.S.

Money Laundering and Cryptocurrency

To move all its money around and avoid being tracked, Hamas relies largely on cryptocurrency transactions and trade-based money laundering.

An example of small-scale trade-based money laundering: Instead of sending someone $100 cash, one sends instead $100 worth of food and as food needs to enter the Gaza Strip, that transaction doesn’t raise any suspicion. If sent to Hamas there, which is easily done due to them being the governing entity, they can use it to free up other funds, or can sell it and use that money as they as they deem appropriate.

Trade-based money laundering on a larger scale: The U.S. Treasury sanctioned nine targets in 2018 for involvement in a network through which Iran used Russian companies to provide oil to Syria, in exchange for Syria sending funding to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was then sent to Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran has funded terrorist groups via networks of shell companies, masked transactions, and the use of precious metals to evade sanctions, a 2018 U.S. Treasury advisory stated.

Hamas’ crypto wallets include Bitcoin, XRP, Tether stablecoin, Tron Blockchain, Binance and Ether, among others. Its use of digital currency represents just one of the many ways the group has sought to raise funds while evading sanctions. Tracking cryptocurrency linked to al-Qassam Brigades has been complicated by the group’s reliance on “one-time-use” crypto addresses that are generated for each individual donor, and illicit money exchanges that anonymously convert cryptocurrency to cash without records. However, as governments around the world have sought to police such transactions, Hamas’ military wing announced that it would stop fundraising in bitcoin to protect its donors. However, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, occasionally some donor appeals have blatantly public, with Hamas and other terrorist groups using Facebook and X, formerly Twitter, to post their crypto wallet addresses with instructions how to donate. Use of the dark web is also frequent, with many calls for donations, as well as sales of weapons, being transacted there.

Binance and its former CEO Chengpeng Zhao pled guilty to violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws and to pay more than $4 billion in fines. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the violations included processing and failing to report “transactions with cryptocurrency wallets that Binance had knowledge were linked to terrorist groups such as Hamas or Palestine Islamic Jihad”. Binance remained willfully blind to the use of its platform by illicit account holders by failing to do any due diligence on most of its users. Zhao may receive up to 18 months in prison. Binance agreed to enter into a number of anti-money laundering & sanctions compliance programs and retain an independent monitor for three years.

Real Charities Defrauded

One of Hamas’ many criminal activities has been to strategically place members within real charities and then divert funds and goods into their own hands.

In 2016 Mohamed el Halabi was arrested on charges of funneling about $43 million from the Christian charity World Vision to Hamas’ military branches. El Halabi was the Palestinian manager of World Vision’s Gaza branch. He had been working for Hamas since 2004 and had been given the mission to infiltrate the World Vision organization and gain an influential position. In the six years he worked there he transferred approximately 60% of their budget to Hamas. He was imprisoned for 12 years by Israeli authorities. Much controversy surrounds the case. World Vision commissioned a forensic investigation and stated that they found no evidence of diversion of funds ($43 million!) nor any material evidence that El Halibi was a member of Hamas. Is World Vision afraid of Hamas? As the evidence was gathered by Shin Bet, many aspects of the case are classified. However, El Halibi apparently confessed to another prisoner.

In 2016, Waheed Borsch who had worked for the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) since 2003, was arrested for providing aid to Hamas. He confessed to diverting 300 tons of rubble and cement to a Hamas naval project. Borsch was sentenced to seven months in prison for rendering services to an illegal organization. During questioning Borsch told investigators that he was directed by Hamas to focus on his work in the program in a way that would allow Hamas to extract the greatest possible benefit from him. The UNDP claimed they would conduct a thorough review of the processes and circumstances.

Support from Relief Agencies

According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), aid to Palestinians totaled over $40 billion between 1994 and 2020. The aid is delivered via the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, established in 1993 after the Oslo Accords. The aid received are categorized into 7 groups:

  1. The Arab nations
  2. The European Union
  3. The USA
  4. Japan
  5. International institutions (including other agencies of the U.N. system)
  6. European countries
  7. Other nations

For other U.N. agencies see this list: Un Entities | United Nations in Palestine

It is extremely difficult to source Hamas’ true annual income. As a mostly illegal organization it does not submit tax returns to any authority and is not audited. Here is some available but incomplete information that indicates the enormous scale of the lavish funding that Gaza receives and which Hamas controls.

The U.S.A. has been a major donor providing more than $5.2 billion through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since 1994. In addition, the U.S. spent at least $5.5 million in Gaza in 2021, over and above their contributions of $90 million to, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

From 2014 to 2020, U.N. agencies spent nearly $4.5 billion in Gaza, including $600 million in 2020 alone. Qatar has provided $1.3 billion in aid to Gaza since 2012 and in 2014 Japan pledged $200 million. In 2021 Egypt pledged $500 million. Germany and other European countries spent $80 million on water projects in Gaza in 2022 in addition to their contributions to UNRWA. These water pipes were later dug up by Hamas and used to manufacture rockets. This was filmed and released in a propaganda video.

Israel also helped in granting around 10,000 work permits annually to families who underwent security vetting, proving they have no known connection to Hamas. Suspended after October 7, it provided a crucial source of income for many Gazans, however, this practice is suspended during times of conflict.

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