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Avi Davidi

Unmasking Hamas: Israeli citizens lead efforts to expose terrorism funding

Volunteer tech workers have uncovered terrorist entities that mask their fundraising with banners of charity and education
In this handout photo, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with senior Palestinian officials, including leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, in the Syrian capital Damascus on May 4, 2023. (Iranian Presidency Office)
In this handout photo, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with senior Palestinian officials, including leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, in the Syrian capital Damascus on May 4, 2023. (Iranian Presidency Office)

Recent sanctions by the US Treasury targeting associates of Hamas revealed a list of organizations that operate under the guise of charity and education, yet are affiliated with Hamas. Credit for this unmasking goes to a group of Israeli tech-savvy volunteers.

In the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, when communities rallied together to support affected families and response efforts, the Israeli tech community emerged as a driving force in civil society.

Leveraging their technological prowess, they committed to aiding the military and government in every conceivable way. This ranged from using AI-powered facial recognition software to locate the some 240 individuals taken captive by terrorists, to scrutinizing the financial channels through which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad receive funds for their terrorist activities.

The group of young volunteers meticulously traced the money flow from various sources to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Employing a range of programs, they uncovered entities that masked their fundraising activities under the banners of charity and education, but ultimately bolstered the covert activities of Hamas and the PIJ.

The US sanctions have cast a spotlight on the Iranian government’s role in providing Hamas with financial, logistical, and operational backing. The list of targets for sanctions includes a Hamas representative in Iran and officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force accused of training Hamas operatives. Shockingly, this training happened just weeks prior to the devastating terror against Israel, in which approximately 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered.

Among the entities sanctioned by the US is Iran’s “Bonyad Shahid” (“Martyrs Foundation,”) which, according to the US Treasury, channels millions of dollars through the Gaza-based Al-Ansar Charity Association, purportedly for the families of terrorists linked with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Israeli officials affirm that the majority of funding for Hamas and the PIJ originates from Iran – approximately $100 million annually for Hamas and tens of millions for the PIJ. Hamas has also received over $1.5 billion from Qatar in the past decade. While these funds are ostensibly allocated for public worker salaries, fuel procurement, and assistance to impoverished families, a portion is diverted for the terrorist groups’ operations.

The Israeli volunteer group succeeded in identifying those private international money exchange companies that have been the main channel utilized for transferring the funding for terror activities, some of them based in Turkey. The list of these companies, published by the Israeli news site Ynet, include entities such as the Shuoman Exchange Company, LLC, CGS Choman Global Services, Money Changer Hamdi Zahr Aldin, Muhammad Khair Hassan Al Kattan & Partner Exchange Company Halil Musa, Burgan Exchange, Tamer Barud, the Turkish representative of the Geneva Exchange in Gaza, the El Kerim Delvated Odeme in Turkey, the Huseyin Misir Abubeki Exchange, and the Abedal Eazzak Exchange.

These civilian efforts, amid the ongoing conflict, underscore the formidable role citizens and the private sector play, even in domains traditionally regarded as the exclusive purview of government. While the military domain remains predominantly under state control, thanks to cyber tools and capabilities, investigations and intelligence gathering have transcended governmental confines. States no longer stand alone in this arena; civilians are both allies and vigilant watchdogs.

About the Author
Dr. Avi Davidi is the editor of the Times of Israel Persian edition.
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