Defense minister orders seizure of $4 million sent by Iran to Hamas

Gantz issues order against Gaza businessman Zuhir Shamalch, who Israel says took over as terror group’s chief money changer after IDF killed his predecessor last year

Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020. (Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020. (Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday signed an order to seize $4 million that had been transferred from Iran to the Hamas terror group via a Gaza Strip money changer, his ministry said in a statement.

“The money was intended for the development of Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza, including the manufacture of weapons and payments to the organization’s activists, and its source was the Iranian regime, which continues to act against the State of Israel,” the Defense Ministry statement said.

The order was issued against a Gaza businessman, Zuhir Shamalch, and his money changing business, Almarkesiya Lelitzrafah.

According to the ministry, Shamalch took over as Hamas’s chief money changer after the IDF killed his predecessor in a May 2019 targeted killing.

An Iranian woman walks past a Bank Pasargad in the capital Tehran on January 19, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

A similar order against Shamalch was already issued in February this year but to disguise his ties with Hamas, he changed the company name, the ministry said.

The updated order contained the new details of the business and enables Israeli authorities to seize whatever cash the company has, wherever it may be located, or property of the same value.

“The order will restrict Zuhir Shamalch and his family all over the world, by restricting their movement in some countries, along with restricting the financial activities of the company by international financial institutions,” the Defense Ministry said.

According to the statement, Gantz’s decision came at the recommendation of the ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terrorism Financing.

In May last year, in response to over 600 rockets fired from the Gaza strip, the Israeli Air Force bombed a vehicle in Gaza City carrying the Hamas field commander it said was responsible for funneling money from Iran to Gaza terror groups, killing him and wounding three others.

Palestinian emergency personnel try to put out the fire on a car belonging to Hamas field commander Hamad al-Khodari, in Gaza City, after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike on May 5, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

According to the IDF, Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari owned a number of money exchanges in the Gaza Strip and used them to bring large amounts of Iranian cash into the coastal enclave for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups.

“Al-Khodari’s financial activities… significantly contributed to advancing terrorist activities and militarily strengthening terror groups in the Gaza Strip,” the army said at the time.

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