The United States and Middle Eastern Gulf nations are attempting to disrupt financing to the Hamas terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, including blocking an investment portfolio estimated at between $400 million and $1 billion.
It includes companies operating “under the guise of legitimate businesses,” CNN reported.
On Tuesday, U.S. and Saudi officials held a meeting of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) that was originally scheduled for November.
The TFTC, created in 2017 to improve multilateral action against terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, includes the United States and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Brian Nelson, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said at the TFTC meeting: “We cannot tolerate a world in which Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ fundraisers live and operate with impunity, abusing the financial system to sustain their terror.”
Nelson urged the Gulf states to share more information about Hamas’s financial system and called on member countries to act.
“From our perspective, not acting against Hamas and its terrorism is a disservice to the Palestinian people,” Nelson said.
“From a financial standpoint, we can clearly see that Hamas has exacerbated economic hardships for decades in the Gaza Strip by diverting humanitarian assistance to support its campaign of terror, and we must publicly condemn these actions,” he added.
A UAE official told CNN on Wednesday, “The UAE is committed to combating illegal financial activities, such as money laundering and financing of terrorism.”
“The country’s policies and strategies detect and deter financial crimes and prevent the use of its lands as a transit route or to transfer funds resulting from any criminal activity,” the official said.
A U.S. official told CNN that efforts have redoubled to hobble Hamas’s financial support in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack that saw the massacre of more than 1,400 Israelis.
Also last week, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network set out new rules targeting the ability of Hamas and other terror groups to use cryptocurrency to raise funds.
Confiscation of millions of dollars worth of digital currency
Israel also stepped up efforts to disrupt Hamas funding efforts.
On Oct. 10, Israel’s National Cyber Crime Unit, together with the police’s Lahav 433 umbrella organization, worked in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the Binance cryptocurrency exchange to close a Hamas-linked virtual wallet that was used to solicit funds in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre.
The Cyber Crime Unit also liaised with British law-enforcement officials to freeze an account at the London-based Barclays bank, the details of which Hamas published to solicit donations.
The police said it was working in tandem with the Defense Ministry’s National Headquarters for Combating Economic Terrorism, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and other intelligence agencies to locate cryptocurrency accounts used to finance additional attacks.
In June, Israel for the first time seized cryptocurrency wallets tied to Iran’s Quds Force and its Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist proxy.
The “extensive and precedent-setting” effort resulted in the confiscation of millions of dollars worth of digital currency earmarked for terrorism, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
The Quds Force is the branch of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for external operations, including support for Hamas.
“Whoever finances terror or maintains economic ties to terror groups are targets, just like those directing terrorism,” Gallant said at the time.