Israel’s Shin Bet security service has uncovered a complex Hamas money laundering operation that brought nearly three quarters of a million shekels into the terrorist group’s coffers, the agency announced Thursday.
In light of Israeli sanctions on the group, Hamas cannot freely move money in and out of the country. Through this plot, which began in early 2016, the group managed to transfer approximately $200,000 (NIS 720,000) into its Hebron offices from Turkey, with help from Gaza, in order to fund terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said.
The security service, working alongside the Israel Police, arrested five Hamas members in the West Bank in connection with the operation, and also identified one operative in Gaza and another in Turkey.
“The discovery of this operation shows the never-ending desire by Hamas operatives in Turkey and Gaza to increase terrorism by Hamas in the West Bank,” the Shin Bet said.
The security service added that this type of money laundering by Hamas takes a toll on the otherwise legitimate Palestinian businessmen involved, who end up “paying a significant personal and financial price for these actions.”
The head of the operation was identified by the security service as Muhammad Maher Bader, a senior member of Hamas in Hebron and a member of the Palestinian parliament.
Bader, who was arrested in June, enlisted the help of two couriers, Muasseb Hashalmon and Taha Uthman, both of them residents of Hebron, the Shin Bet said.
Hashalmon and Uthman would travel to Turkey, where they would receive tens of thousands of dollars from a Hamas operative named Haron Nasser al-Din.
According to the Shin bet, the two Palestinian men used the money to purchase commercial goods, which they would ship back to Hebron and sell. The money from the merchandise, save for a small percentage that was their cut, was then used to pay the salaries of Hamas’s high command in the West Bank city and was also given to active members of the terrorist group and to operatives who had been released from prison.
Behind the scenes, two other Hebron residents — Umar Qimri and Yusri Hashalmon — worked with a Gaza-based Hamas member, Majd Jaaba, to facilitate the deals in Turkey, the Shin Bet said.
Jaaba, who was originally from Hebron, moved to Gaza after he was released from an Israeli prison as part of the deal to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit, an agreement that saw over 1,000 convicted Palestinian terrorists set free.
Al-Din, originally from Hebron, was also released from prison under the Shalit deal.
In addition to breaking up the ongoing money operation, the Shin Bet said it thwarted a second plot that was still in the planning stages, in which a cement factory in Hebron would be used to launder even more funds for the terrorist group.
With the close of the investigation, the Shin Bet said military prosecutors are expected to file indictments against the five Hebron-based members of the operation within the next few days.