(Communicated by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Smuggling funds to the terrorist organizations
Historically, much of Hamas’ funding has come from Palestinian expatriates around the world and from private donors in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Persian Gulf states. Iran also provides significant support. In addition, some Muslim charities in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe funnel money into Hamas-backed social service groups.
In 2006, money originating from outside Israel continued to pour into the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority. These funds enabled the terrorist organizations to preserve and expand their terrorist-operative infrastructures, to pay terrorist operatives and activists, train operatives, purchase and manufacture weapons and carry out attacks against Israel. Intelligence assessments estimate that despite the halting of official fund transfers from the international community, approximately $10 million were transferred to Judea and Samaria, and almost $30 million to the Gaza Strip during 2006.
Many methods are used to smuggle funds into the PA-administered territories, including bank transfers, through “charity” funds and foundations, moneychangers, merchants and couriers. One conduit used by both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group was the Faiz Abu ‘Akr Company in the Gaza Strip, owned by a Khan Younis businessman. The Israeli Defense Ministry outlawed it after it became clear that during the past few years it had transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to terrorist-operatives in transactions camouflaged as business deals.
In addition to funds that go directly to terrorist-operatives, Hamas received tens of millions of dollars from funds and foundations operating in the Persian Gulf and Europe. This money was used to finance its organizational and civilian infrastructures. Their civilian organization is one of its main sources of power among the Palestinian population, and is also used to support the organization’s terrorist-operative network. These funds are transferred despite the fact that transferring funds to support terrorism is in direct opposition to the new UN convention regarding the prohibition of funding terrorism and to Security Council Resolution 1267, passed on October 15, 1999.
The security forces activity against terrorist funding
In 2006, the Israeli security forces carried out intensive activities to prevent terrorist funds from reaching the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. An outstanding example was a broad-scale operation carried out on September 19, aimed at moneychangers in Judea and Samaria. Its objective was to prevent funds from reaching the terrorists. Moneychangers were arrested and equipment and funds were confiscated, as were documents and weapons found in their offices and houses. Similar operations were carried out in the Gaza Strip.
According to Israel Security Agency data, in the West Bank operation security forces found about $5 million dollars and about 170,000 Jordanian dinars (almost $250,000 dollars) during searches of the houses and offices of 13 moneychangers in the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm and Ramallah. They had transferred funds to the terrorist organizations from the headquarters of Hamas, the PIJ and Hizbullah in Syria and Lebanon. The operation had a deterring effect on moneychangers in the West Bank.
Israeli security forces detained 86 terrorist-operatives dealing with financial matters during 2006. The security forces targeted approximately 100 institutions belonging to the Hamas civilian infrastructure in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Individuals were detained, documents were confiscated and institutions were closed. Fatah targeted Hamas organizational and civilian institutions during the recent violent clashes between the two organizations. While severely damaged during the fighting, these institutions, funded predominantly by donations from charity foundations abroad, continue to function effectively while trying to change their modus operandi to ensure their survival.
Financial support for the Hamas government
Despite the international community’s financial embargo on the Hamas government, enormous sums reached it in 2006. These funds were used to finance both governmental and organizational activities, and were also exploited to build up the group’s military capabilities.
The Hamas government brought about $80 million in cash into the Gaza Strip last year, most of the time openly, through the Rafah crossing, with the knowledge and compliance of the Egyptian government. The funds were primarily used by the Hamas government to pay PA employees’ salaries. In addition, Hamas covered the cost of establishing the Executive Force, which is under the control of the interior ministry.
Several hundred millions of dollars were transferred to Mahmoud Abbas. While these funds did not reach the Hamas government, they eased its financial burden because most of the money was used to pay Palestinian Authority salaries.