Hamas second-richest terror group in world, Forbes says

Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers have $1 billion stashed away; only the Islamic State with $2 billion has a fatter wallet

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Hamas supporters gather for a rally in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Thursday, August 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinian Hamas supporters gather for a rally in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Thursday, August 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Hamas is the second richest terror group in the world, with finances of around $1 billion, according to a report published by Forbes Israel this week listing the top 10 wealthiest terror groups.

The Palestinian Islamist organization, which rules the Gaza Strip and collects taxes and aid money, is second only to the Islamic State, which has some $2 billion dollars at its disposal.

Third on the list is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army, better known as FARC, with some $600 million, while Lebanon-based Hezbollah came out fourth with $500 million. The Taliban, with an estimated $400 million, rounds out the top five.

The report does not detail where the terror groups get their money from, but Hamas had been able to control imports into the Gaza Strip through a series of smuggling tunnels from Sinai before they were largely destroyed by Egypt’s army over the last two years.

The organization is also backed by international donors like Qatar who donate money to the Strip.

Palestinians have asked the international community to donate some $4 billion to the Strip to help rehabilitation efforts after the summer war with Israel, though countries have expressed concerns about the money going to the hands of Hamas.

During a one-day donor conference in October, international envoys pledged about $5.4 billion in aid for the Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced immediate US assistance of $212 million as the conference began.

Hamas’s billion pales in comparison to the Islamic State’s vast wealth.

On top of controlling vast oil reserves in Iraq and Syria, IS also managed to take control of Mosul’s main bank earlier this year, looting over $400 million from the institution.

The group has also managed to ransom off hostages for princely sums.

Al-Qaeda, which once counted Islamic State as one of its offshoots, is number 6 on the list with $150 million, according to the report, followed by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan ($100 million), Harakat al-Shabaab in Somalia ($70 million), the Real Irish Republican Army ($50 million), and the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram ($25 million).

Experts say Islamic State’s huge financial capabilities are a significant problem for anti-terror efforts.

“The economic power that an organization like Islamic State has accrued is a threat to Western countries and moderate Arab states,” Giora Eiland, former heard of Israel’s National Security Council, is quoted telling Forbes. “However, in order for the financial activities to continue successfully it needs partnership with other states and bodies. IS, with all of the financial resources that it got its hands on, is dependent on the cooperation of a second party. Its oil, for example, it sells to Turkey, so in the end there is cooperation with it — and that is what is disturbing.”

Eiland called for regulations and legislation against the groups as well as action against countries and bodies that finance and support terror organizations.

Eiland called for outlawing such bodies, imposing sanctions, or refraining from doing business with any entity that deals with terror groups.

Such action has been taken in the past.

In September a New York jury found the Jordan-based multinational Arab Bank liable on 24 counts of supporting terrorism by transferring funds to Hamas.

Around 300 American relatives of the victims of 24 attacks carried out in Israel and the Palestinian territories during the Second Intifada filed the federal lawsuit in 2004.

The American victims and their relatives said the bank violated the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when it served as a conduit for money from a Saudi Arabian fund to families of Palestinians who died, including suicide bombers.

A second trial would have to determine how much the bank will be liable to pay in damages.

AFP contributed to this report.

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