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Israel seizes 30 cryptocurrency wallets allegedly funding Hamas

March 1, 2022 at 8:46 pm

A visual representation of the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin next to Visa cards, at the ‘Bitcoin Change’ shop in Tel Aviv, 6 February 2018 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli authorities have seized dozens of cryptocurrency wallets from accounts allegedly affiliated with the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, in what they claim is a crackdown on funding to the group through digital means.

The seizure of around 30 wallets from 12 accounts was approved by Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, who said in a statement that “We continue to expand our tools to deal with terrorism, and with companies that supply it with an economic oxygen pipeline.”

The wallets – reportedly owned by an exchange company named Al-Mutahadun in the Gaza Strip and having had an estimated value of tens of thousands of Israeli shekels – were confiscated in a joint operation by the Defence Ministry, police and military.

According to Israeli news outlets, the wallets were the result of Hamas’s efforts to acquire funds from international donors through the use of cryptocurrencies – an experimental project launched by the group around three years ago to help counter its financial troubles and circumvent the traditional banking system.

Al-Mutahadun is reportedly owned by the Shamlah family, prominent amongst the Hamas leadership, who Gantz said “assists the Hamas terror group, and especially its military wing, by transferring funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars a year.”

In 2020, Gantz authorised the seizure of $4 billion in funding allegedly transferred from Iran to Hamas and, last year, Israel claimed that it seized $121,000 sent to the group from members in Turkey.

While the Israeli reports cannot be verified, if true, then Tel Aviv’s seizure of the digital wallets signifies its advancing capability to counter alleged financial aid to Hamas in the form of cryptocurrencies – a commodity that has long been lauded by many as relatively safe from the reach of states and banking institutions. It was in July when the Israeli government launched its campaign to target crypto wallets it says is used by Hamas.

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