Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

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Illicit transfer news: recommended reading

March 13, 2014
  • Eight have been arrested in raids over zakat raised in Britain to fund terrorism in Syria… more>>
  • Is a millionaire bitcoin trader copping a plea over money laundering allegations?  More>>
  • By sea, land, and air—Iran’s history of busted arms smuggling operations is exposed… more>>
  • Speaking of Iranian weapons trafficking, Iraq has been a helpful facilitator to their neighbor lately… more>>
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Hamas’s multi-million dollar fish story

March 3, 2014

The seizure of a statue by Hamas worth $20 to $40 million is raising concerns within the art world that looted antiquities could become a growing revenue source for terrorist organizations.  The bronze statue in question was allegedly discovered underwater (which expert archaeologists doubt) by a Gaza Strip fisherman and subsequently taken possession of by Hamas.

The dubious sea-diving tale prompts the question raised by the archaeological blog Looting Matters:  “Is the reported find-spot a blind to distract the authorities from a ‘productive’ site?”  In other words, where in the Middle East is the real site of discovery that is being plundered and resold to organizations like Hamas?

Incidentally, had this been a “Gazan” or “Palestinian” artifact discovered off the Gulf coast of Mississippi, the Palestinian Authority and leftist academics would be calling for the “repatriation” of the artifact to the Palestinian territories.  Yet notice that although this is a Greek artifact, there isn’t even a hint of a possibility of returning the statue to Greece…

From the International Business Times:

Rare Bronze Apollo Statue Found In The Gaza Strip, ‘Priceless’ Artifact Could Become ‘Funding Stream’ For Hamas

By Zoe Mintz

on February 10 2014

A statue lost for centuries was found in the Gaza Strip, seized by police and has since disappeared from public view.

The statue of the Greek god Apollo is at least 2,000 years old – made sometime between the 5th and 1st centuries BC. Joudat Ghrab, 26, a local fisherman, said he saw the half-ton statue on the seafloor of the Mediterranean in August and brought it home. The statue was posted on eBay briefly for $500,000 – well below its estimated value of $20 million to $40 million — before it was taken by the Islamist group Hamas, Reuters reports.

“It’s unique. In some ways I would say it is priceless. It’s like people asking what is the [value] of the painting La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] in the Louvre museum,” Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, said. “It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal.”

While archeologists have yet to examine the rare statue firsthand, based on the images that show the statue was well-preserved, experts say it was most likely recovered on land, not in the sea.

“This wasn’t found on the seashore or in the sea … it is very clean. No, it was [found] inland and dry,” de Tarragon said about the six-foot-tall statue, adding that the metal would have been disfigured or barnacles present if it had been found in water…

But Ghrab defends his story, adding that he thought the statue was a badly burned body before he dove down and discovered it was actually a “treasure”…

Family members belonging to Hamas soon took possession of the statue. Officials from Gaza’s tourism ministry told Reuters the statue will not be displayed publicly until a criminal investigation is completed on who tried to sell the item online…

The Apollo statue is stuck in a bit of a quandary. The Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory, is controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas – making the purchase of the Apollo statue limited since it would be considered violating international sanctions against financing terrorism, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. If the statue was smuggled, it would be a challenge. The Gaza Strip not only shares heavily armed borders with Israel and Egypt but its coastline is also under heavy guard by the Israeli Navy. If the statue remains in the Gaza Strip, it would not become a tourist attractio [sic], because Hamas’ fundamentalist principles condemn nudity.

“This case is fiendishly difficult,” Sam Hardy, a British archaeologist who runs the website Conflict Antiquities, said. “National and international laws make it difficult to assist the administration in the West Bank, let alone that in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, any sale or leasing of the statue might normalize looting of antiquities as a funding stream for Hamas.”

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Hamas $200m poorer as smuggling tunnels close

February 10, 2014

The New York Times reports that Egyptian closures of tunnels used to smuggle weapons and merchandise into Gaza has resulted in a loss of nearly $200 million to Hamas, which taxes goods that are smuggled through the tunnels.

Previous news reports have indicated that Hamas’s taxes on the underground trade grew and became formalized within the past few years, and that the terrorist organization made a million dollars a day in early 2013 by levying taxes on smuggled products.

Thanks to Sal for sending this over:

As Gaza Tunnels Closed, Hamas Lost Cash, Israeli Official Says

TEL AVIV — Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, is in severe economic straits, having lost a major source of income in recent months because of an Egyptian clampdown on hundreds of smuggling tunnels, a high-ranking Israeli military official told reporters at army headquarters here on Thursday.

Dozens of tunnels running beneath Gaza’s border with Egypt are still operating, he said, but the $200 million that Hamas collected annually in tax revenues from the tunnel trade has been reduced to a few million dollars at most.

The Israeli official, from the military’s southern command, which deals with Gaza and Israel’s border with Egypt, was speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with military protocol.

A variety of goods, including cheap flour, subsidized Egyptian fuel and building materials, had flowed into Gaza through the tunnels, as well as weapons and operatives, he said, describing the tunnel system as Gaza’s economic lifeline. More goods are being imported from Israel, but at a much higher cost.

The tunnel clampdown began over the summer, when the military in Egypt ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was Hamas’s most important ally. The Egyptians acted against the tunnels because of what they saw as their own security interests, the Israeli military official said.

Isra al-Modallal, a spokeswoman for Hamas, said Gaza had suffered overall losses of more than $500 million in all sectors because of the closing of the tunnels, but she could not provide a figure for how much Hamas had lost in tax revenue. The amount of goods entering Gaza through the tunnels has been cut by 95 percent, she added…

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Qatar aids Al Qaeda and Hamas in Gaza

December 2, 2013

In order to obtain “billions of dollars” from Qatar, Hamas has agreed to ease restrictions in Gaza on its rival Al Qaeda.  Dozens of Al Qaeda fighters have already been released from prison by Hamas officials to meet Doha’s demands.

Qatar is probably emboldened by the influence and traction it has gained by backing Islamist fighters in Mali, Syria, and the Arab Spring countries.  Its monarchy senses that this is the perfect time to expand their influence in the Palestinian territories where old guard terrorist groups are short on cash.  Judging by the relative lack of media coverage of this development, they’re getting away with it.

From World Tribune (h/t Global MB Watch):

Hamas eases up on Al Qaida in hopes of securing Qatari cash

Special to WorldTribune.com

GAZA CITY — Hamas, desperate for new allies, has ended its crackdown on Al Qaida-aligned militias financed by Qatar.

Palestinian sources said the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has released scores of Al Qaida-aligned militia members, known as Salafists.

The sources said the restrictions on the militias were eased amid Hamas’ crisis with neighboring Egypt over the revolt in the Sinai Peninsula.

“Qatar has promised billions of dollars to Hamas, but the money was held up until the policy against the Salafists changed,” a source said.

Al Qaida-aligned militias, including Army of Islam, Army of the Nation, Jaljalat and Swords of Righteousness, had long been regarded as a strategic threat by Hamas. In 2009, Hamas killed 22 Al Qaida fighters in a raid of their stronghold in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Over the last two years, however, the Al Qaida militias were bolstered by tens of millions of dollars in cash and weapons supplied mostly by Qatar. In May 2013, a delegation of leading Sunni clerics from Kuwait and Qatar, including Yusef Qaradawi, arrived in the Gaza Strip and urged the Hamas leadership to release militia fighters.

Since then, the Salafists have sought to draft an agreement to define the activities of Al Qaida militias, most of them armed with rockets that could strike deep into Israel. The sources said Qatar signaled it would intensify aid once an agreement was signed.

The sources said Hamas has demanded that Al Qaida militias refrain from any attacks on Israel without permission from the Islamist regime. They said Hamas also wanted to control all weapons supplies to the militias and was refusing to return arms already confiscated.

So far, more than 40 Al Qaida-aligned operatives were released from Hamas prisons over the last two months, the sources said. They said Hamas was expected to keep most of the Salafists in prison until a full agreement was reached and Qatar relayed aid…

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Kuwaiti tycoon runs Hamas’s newest sharia bank

November 21, 2013

In May, Kuwaiti businessman Dr. Riyadh Al-Khulaifi launched Al-Intaj bank, an Islamic financial institution that has no license to operate from the Palestinian Monetary Authority.  Hamas and Al-Khualifi conceived of the bank to help keep Hamas afloat, to help evade international sanctions, and to increase sharia-compliant services in Gaza.

Hamas is probably concerned that Islamic National Bank, the other unlicensed sharia bank upon which the terrorist group relies, could be disrupted again by Israel, prompting the creation of Al-Intaj.

Al-Khulaifi is a member the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group that supports “armed resistance.”  His leadership over the Gaza bank could indicate an acceleration in Kuwait’s foot race with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to see who can buy the most Islamist loyalty abroad.

From IslamicFinance.de earlier this year:

A new bank is set to be inaugurated in the Gaza Strip next week, although it has not yet received the necessary license from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA). The Al-Intaj bank has a capital of $20m and a board of directors chaired by Kuwaiti businessman and member of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Dr Riyadh Al-Khulaifi. The bank… will be headquartered in Gaza City and have branches in other parts of Gaza Strip in the coming years. 50% of its capital will be channelled to production-oriented activities, while 40% will be allocated to the traditional transactions. The remaining 10% will be set aside to the ‘murabahat’ (Shari’ah-compliant transactions), the lender’s deputy board chairman Rushdi Wadi said.

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Two unlicensed sharia banks sustain Hamas

November 7, 2013

Islamic National Bank and Al-Intaj have no approval from the Palestinian Monetary Authority to operate.  These Islamic banks are dangerously under-capitalized and they circumvent international sanctions against Hamas.  Even the rabidly anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada is admitting this situation:

Unlicensed banks provide “safety net” to besieged Gaza

Hana Salah
29 October 2013

Gaza Strip—Two Islamic banks have played a critical role in helping Gaza cope with the siege imposed by Israel and enforced by the Egyptian government.

The Islamic National Bank and Al-Intaj have managed to stay in business despite attacks on them and threats to their operations; Israel bombed the Islamic National Bank in November last year. Meanwhile, the public sector which both banks sustain has been hampered by the closure of tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt.

Both banks operate without the approval of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), which was established under the 1993 Oslo accords to oversee the financial system in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead, they have been given permits to operate by the Hamas-led administration in Gaza.

Due to their lack of PMA approval, these banks can only work in the Gaza Strip, without connections with Israeli or international banks.

“Safety net”

Mohsen Abu Ramadan, an economic analyst, said that the two banks have provided “a monetary safety net for the Hamas government, and replaced the licensed banks, which refused to deal with Hamas.”

The nexus between these banks and Hamas underscores once again the natural relationship that exists between Islamic banks and the financing of terrorist groups.

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Shin Bet’s dirt on the China-Hamas connection

October 4, 2013

Haaretz has published an unusually detailed report on longstanding use of Chinese banks to launder money for the Hamas terrorist organization.  Many readers are already familiar with the ongoing lawsuit against the Bank of China made wire transfers to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad from 2004 to 2007, but this this newly disclosed operation involving “Abu Othman” indicates that China was still active in laundering money for Hamas as recently as 2012.  Take a look:

Infographic on criminal money transfer conspiracy

Shin Bet probe reveals scope of Hamas money laundering through Chinese banks

Laundering continued years after the Bank of China affair, Israel’s security service reveals.

By Chaim Levinson | Sep. 29, 2013

A Shin Bet security service investigation reveals that China is a central financial channel for funding Hamas activity worldwide. Its February-March 2012 probe connected Chinese banks to the transference of money to Hamas prisoners. The Shin Bet seized numerous documents of the transfers and a list of accounts in which the money was deposited in China.

The key to discovering the network was the testimony of Amar Mer’i, a West Bank money changer who had previously transferred money from laborers from Gaza to their families, but had stopped this activity after pressure from the Palestinian Authority to cut his ties with Gaza. He told the Shin Bet he was contacted by a man known as Abu Othman, who had received his name and number from Mer’i’s counterpart in Gaza. Mer’i said he suspected Abu Othman was a Hamas operative.

The Shin Bet arrested Mer’i at a border crossing in February 2010 in possession of $126,000 and NIS 80,000 in cash. Mer’i received the money from two men from the village of Musmus in the Wadi Ara region.

Mer’i’s information led to a complicated web. His contacts from Musmus, Mohammed Agbaria and his cousin Mohammed Abu Shahab, would receive text messages from Abu Othman with an encoded telephone number of an Eritrean national. Agbaria would meet the Eritrean in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station area, take the money from him and pass it on to Mer’i, who would deposit it in the Bank of Palestine in Yabad, near Jenin. After that, Mer’i would receive an email message from Abu Othman with instructions on where to transfer the funds.

Most of the money would be transferred to accounts in the Bank of China. One transfer was made to a Citibank account in New York and another to a bank in Alabama. Several transfers were made to a HSBC bank in Hong Kong. Some money was transferred to accounts in India and Turkey.

Mer’i personally handed over some of the cash to Hamas activists in the West Bank as compensation for having served jail time.

The Shin Bet asked Mer’i why Abu Othman had to pay a mediation commission to an Eritrean national, couriers from Musmus and also to him. Mer’i said it didn’t make sense to him and he suspected the convoluted money route was illegal. He said the text messages also made him suspicious.

Mer’i said he had called Abu Othman to ask him if the money belonged to Hamas, but was told it did not. Altogether he carried out 40 money transfers, totalling $1.1 million.

Mer’i also transferred money to Brookside Agra, an Illinois-based company that sells fertilizers.

He told the Shin Bet interrogator that Abu Othman asked him on the phone if he could handle money the latter had in Sudan. Mer’i said he asked several money changers and the Bank of Palestine, but none of them had any contact with Sudan.

Mer’i said that, a few days before his arrest, he received a text message from Abu Othman with the names of three women and the sums of money to give them. These included $3,000 to Um Faiz, $3,000 to Fatma and $3,500 to Um Sa’ad. He said he called the three and set up meetings with each.

The money was intended as support to the families of Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons. Couriers Agbaria and Abu Shahab transferred funds to Hamas families as well. In one case, Hamas prisoner Ayman Abu Daud testified he had received $38,000 for serving time in an Israeli prison.

Abu Daud was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 36 years in prison after carrying out four shooting attacks in the Hebron area. He was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal…

There is more; read it all here.

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The ratlines of Hamas

July 15, 2013

Hamas and tunnel owners are making millions of dollars a year from Gaza Strip smuggling.  A nice little summary of the long-known situation comes to us from a new, scholarly article entitled “Terrorist Use of Smuggling Tunnels” in the latest edition of the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology:

…The amount of money made by Hamas off taxing contraband smuggled through Gaza Strip tunnels, as well as the political advantage of Hamas controlling both absolute and conditional contraband tunnel smuggling, has been addressed in the business management popular press. For example, one source reported that “the tunnels generate $188 million in tax revenues on things like cigarettes, gas and building materials” (Topol, 2013, para. 13).

Palestinians estimate that 25% of the Hamas government’s budget comes from taxes imposed on the owners of the underground tunnels. For example, Hamas has imposed a 25% tax and a $2,000 fee on every car that is smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Hamas also charges $15 for each ton of cement, eight cents for a pack of cigarettes, and 50 cents for each liter of fuel smuggled through the tunnels (Toameh, 2012).

The political advantage the smuggling tunnels provided to Hamas included that while the tunnels are essential for transporting absolute contraband and materials into Gaza, they are also critical for maintaining the goodwill of Gazans by providing them with cut-price commodities even with surcharges added by Hamas officials (Alster, 2013). The financial rewards of engaging in criminal smuggling of contraband between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are an important part of transnational tunnel analysis because the Gaza Strip is a site of an estimated 600 millionaires (Toameh, 2012)…

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Carter seeks waiver so charities can deal with terrorists

July 3, 2013

Jimmy Carter has signed a petition developed by the Charity & Security Network to “exempt peacebuilding activities” from the U.S. prohibition against providing material support to terrorist organizations.

The problem with the proposal is that it would open up too much wiggle room for charities to interact with terrorist groups.  Which charities would be eligible for such an exemption?  Islamic Relief USA?  Under the exemption, charities like IR-USA could partner with Hamas charities or even directly with Hamas, and justify the joint venture on the grounds that they are pursuing peace-building efforts.

The limits on engagement with terrorist groups have been a longstanding grievance among left-leaning philanthropic and charitable organizations.  While many of those seeking a relaxation of the rules have their hearts in the right place with a genuine desire to seek world peace, the harsh reality is that some charitable entities (or some of their employees) would exploit the exemption to support, rather than to pacify, terrorist groups.  Even financial aid toward projects such as schools, orphanages, or food aid while working with a group such as Hamas or al-Shabaab would be problematic because aid is fungible, and such aid would generally serve to strengthen the terrorist group and its reputation among the populations they “serve.”

The Hill ran this article with a striking but misleading headline “Ex-President Carter wants sanctions weakened on terrorist groups.”  Not exactly—but what’s being proposed is equally alarming.  Read it all:

By Julian Pecquet – 06/20/13

Former President Jimmy Carter is spearheading an effort to convince the U.S. to weaken sanctions on terrorist groups so peace organizations can legally work with them.

In a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry delivered Thursday, Carter and other foreign policy experts ask Kerry to exempt peace groups from policies that make it a crime to offer negotiation training and humanitarian law classes to terror groups.

“The Secretary of State can, and should, exempt peacebuilding activities from this counterproductive application of the law,” says the petition. “Doing so would open the door for professional peacebuilders to fully engage in helping to end armed conflicts and suffering around the world, while making the U.S. safer.”

The Charity and Security Network, which is spearheading the petition, declined for legal reasons to provide examples of current programs impacted by anti-terrorism sanctions. The organization told The Hill that in the past, efforts to build bridges with the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and leftist guerillas in Colombia have all been stymied.

A 2011 report by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute said anti-terrorism laws passed in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have created bureaucratic red tape and fostered an atmosphere of “fear” and “confusion” that has endangered the lives of aid workers and made it impossible for them to work in many of the world’s hot spots.

“Rigid and over-zealous application of counter-terrorism laws to humanitarian action in conflict not only limits its reach in that context,” the report concluded, “but undermines the independence and neutrality of humanitarian organisations in general, and could become an additional factor in the unravelling of the legitimacy and acceptance of humanitarian response in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”

The roadblocks have only gotten worse since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that such aid fit the Patriot Act’s definition of “material support” for terrorism. The high court in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project determined that such aid could free up terror groups’ resources for terrorist activities and legitimize them…

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Terrorists still making money without Iran

June 18, 2013

Despite the loss of Iranian sponsorship, “Hamas does not suffer a serious financial difficulty,” according to the Gulf News.  Political analyst Hani Habib is quoted as saying “Hamas can handle the financial difficulties and compensate for the Iranian financial aid with a strict tax system, the tunnel trade, and financial aid from some Arab states.”

Such aid includes funds raised in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E., the Sudan, and Islamic charities operating in the West (see here, here, here and here) transmitting donations through third party or shell charities in Gaza.  In terms of annual revenues, Hamas is one of the five wealthiest terrorist organizations worldwide.

Hamas ‘surviving’ without Iranian aid

Islamist group’s departure from the ‘Axis of Resistence’ did not hasten reconciliation with Fatah

By Nasouh Nazzal Correspondent
June 4, 2013

Ramallah: Healing the internal Palestinian rift seems to be unachievable despite the impact of the serious reduction in Iranian financial aid to Hamas and the departure of the Islamist group’s headquarters out of Syria.

The latest issue of contention between Hamas and Fatah is Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s move to appoint a new prime minister to fill the vacuum left with the resignation of caretaker premier Salam Fayyad.

Hamas rulers in Gaza pay the salaries of 50,000 workers and troops, which presents a financial hardship for the Islamist group similar to that faced by the Ramallah-based Palestinian National Authority.

“Hamas can handle the financial difficulties and compensate for the Iranian financial aid with a strict tax system, the tunnel trade, and financial aid from some Arab states,” said Hani Habib, a Gaza-based commentator and political analyst in an interview with Gulf News.

Western financial aid for the PNA is not unlike Iranian financial aid to Hamas, and is often connected to the political agendas of the donors, he said.

Iran had dramatically reduced its financial aid to Hamas after the Islamist group refused to support the Syrian regime led by Bashar Al Assad. “This Iranian attitude had basically disclosed that the Axis of Resistance connects the financial aid to loyalty,” said Habib, referring to the term used to refer to Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Syrian regime’s enmity to Israel.

Palestinian observers had expected that an end of Iranian financial aid to Hamas would facilitate a healing of the internal rift between the two rivals, Fatah and Hamas.

“This is an illusion as Hamas does not suffer a serious financial difficulty,” said Habib.

“It has become clear that Palestinian internal reconciliation is not connected with the Iranian financial aid to Hamas.”

The Islamist group of Hamas is no longer confronting with the Israeli occupation forces in the field, a stance which resulted in deterioration in the support of the Muslim world, according to Dr Ebrahim Ebrashi, who heads the Political Science Department at Al Azhar University in Gaza and is the former Palestinian Culture Minister.

“Hamas has become an authority and government which held a truce with Israel,” he said.

Ebrashi believes that Palestinian internal reconciliation is a bigger issue than Fatah and Hamas.

“Reconciliation has to do with geography which is totally and solely controlled by Israel,” he told Gulf News. “Palestinians should not dream of forming a national unity government this August.”

Hamas has moved from the arena of resistance to the arena of politics and that shift in Hamas strategy includes losses that Hamas must bear.

“It is true that Hamas has lost the Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah support, but Hamas’ leadership in Gaza and abroad believe that they can make it up,” he said…

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Hamas defines ‘Jihad with Money’

June 5, 2013

And it’s exactly what we’ve always told you…

From IDF Blog on May 23 (h/t Justice4Israel):

Last week, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, published an article on their website entitled ‘Jihad with Money’ (link in Arabic).

The term ‘Jihad with Money’ has two different meanings, the article’s author suggests.

“The general meaning [of the term] is to give money to charitable causes for the pleasure of God Almighty: to help the poor and needy, construct hospitals, mosques, schools, colleges and universities, [to assist] orphans and students, and help the unemployed.”

That sounds like a respectable concept – until you read on for the ‘special’ meaning.

“The special meaning: to make money for combat, such as the purchase of weapons, gear and clothing, and to develop the means to build factories for weapons and to support the families of the Mujahideen [terror fighters] and their families.”

For Hamas, charity and Jihad are one and the same. Hamas built their power base and gained the support of ordinary Gazans thanks to their extensive charity network. They also collect money around the world, ostensibly for the benefit of the Gazan people. But much of that money never gets to the people for whom Hamas claims it is intended.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ website calls on its readers to give ‘zakat’, or charity, generously, and suggests that the Hamas government spends that money on a wide range of charity projects, in addition to its military activities. By associating its military activities with its charity work, Hamas attempts to justify its spending. But do not be fooled: Hamas’ priority number one is terror – and helping ordinary Gazans in need comes a distant second…

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