Israel freezes Hamas-linked crypto accounts used for donations
Israeli police’s cyber unit worked with UK authorities and Binance to freeze accounts Hamas had used to receive donations
Protasov AN/Shutterstock, modified by Blockworks
Israeli police have seized cryptocurrency accounts used to collect donations for Palestinian Islamic group Hamas.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, launched a major surprise attack against Israel over the weekend, reminiscent of the 1973 Yom Kippur assault.
In retaliation, Israel launched heavy airstrikes on Gaza, causing widespread damage to neighborhoods. As of Wednesday, it’s estimated that over 1,000 people have died in Israel, while Gaza has seen around 900 casualties.
Israel Police’s Cyber Unit, along with the Ministry of Defense, the Israel Security Agency, and other national intelligence agencies, effectively blocked crypto accounts on centralized exchanges employed by Hamas to raise funds for their operations, according to a Tuesday announcement on X.
The Police’s Cyber Unit worked with UK law enforcement and froze another account held at UK-based Barclays bank, which Hamas publicly disclosed for receiving donation funds, the statement said.
These funds were redirected to the state treasury with the support of crypto exchange Binance, the Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.
The exact amount of funds and number of crypto accounts seized was undisclosed.
“The Israel Police, Ministry of Defense, and other partners will continue the fight against terrorist financing and targeting the strategic financial assets of terrorist organizations,” police said.
Blockworks has reached out to Barclays and Binance for comment.
Though the use of crypto for funding terrorism is less common than fiat currency, Israeli Police found that Hamas began fundraising efforts using crypto accounts since Saturday’s attacks.
Tether made up bulk of past fund seizures
Blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs, which says Hamas is the first terrorist organization to use crypto, in a recent report detailed findings on how the group received crypto.
GazaNow, a Gaza-based organization actively backing Hamas, has been seeking donations through a cryptocurrency address. This address, initially active in Aug. 2021, received a total of $800,000, with less than $5,000 received since the attacks on Saturday, according to the report.
Since early 2019, Hamas’ military arm, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been exploring crypto as an alternative fundraising method for its military operations.
Hamas initially experimented with crypto fundraising by seeking bitcoin donations through its Telegram channel, later transitioning to direct fundraising on its website, alqassam.net, TRM Labs said.
In recent years, Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) has consistently taken action against Hamas’ utilization of cryptocurrencies.
Among these entities are Gaza-based businesses like Dubai Co. For Exchange, al-Muhtadon, al-Mutahadun For Exchange, and al-Wefaq Co for Exchange. The majority of the seized funds were in the form of tether tokens on the Tron network, according to TRM Labs.
As a centralized stablecoin issuer, Tether has administrative control over USDT, which it can exercise in response to law enforcement requests. About 50% of all USDT is on Tron, data from DefiLlama shows.
Reuters reported in May that the Israel anti-terror finance squad halted some 190 Binance accounts that the government alleged had connections to both the Islamic State and Hamas.
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