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Israel intercepts 23 tons of chocolate it says was intended to finance Hamas

Defense Ministry says Gazan importers worked with Hamas front companies designated as terror groups by Israel; sales of the chocolate bars would have profited Hamas’s military wing

Chocolate bars seized by Israel at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt that Israeli officials said were being imported into Gaza by front companies for Hamas and whose sale profits would go to fund the terror group's military wing, August 16, 2021. (Defense Ministry)
Chocolate bars seized by Israel at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt that Israeli officials said were being imported into Gaza by front companies for Hamas and whose sale profits would go to fund the terror group's military wing, August 16, 2021. (Defense Ministry)

Israeli security officials captured and confiscated a shipment of 23 tons of chocolate bars headed to the Gaza Strip they say was part of a network financing Hamas military operations in the territory.

Tax Authority officials intercepted the shipment as it passed from Egypt into Israel at the Nitzana border crossing, before it headed to Gaza. Officials were working off information provided by IDF intelligence and the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counterterror Financing, a statement from the Defense Ministry said.

According to Israeli officials, the chocolate bars were being brought into the Strip by importers working with two Gazan companies, the al-Mutahidun Currency Exchange and Arab al-Sin, that belong to the Shamlakh family and serve as Hamas fronts. Al-Mutahidun and Arab al-Sin are designated as terror organizations by Israel, which says sales of their imports in Gaza help finance Hamas’s military wing.

“Al-Mutahidun” means “the challengers” or “the confronters” in Arabic and is sometimes used when referring to confronting or challenging Israel.

“Israel will continue to act to prevent Hamas from growing stronger,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement after signing a confiscation order for the chocolate bars.

Hamas is “growing its military forces instead of caring for the residents of the Strip who are struggling economically,” Gantz said. “We will continue to pursue terrorism’s funding no matter what form it takes.”

Palestinian boys queue to register for a summer camp organized by Hamas’s military wing, the Iz-Ad Din Al-Qassam Brigades, in Gaza City on June 14, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israeli officials believe Hamas has taken control of a great deal of Gaza’s import industry, including basic staples, in its pursuit of income streams for the organization that bypass Israeli and international sanctions and blockade restrictions.

“Business dealings with these companies are illegal, and will lead to severe penalties against those involved,” an Israeli official told the Ynet news site on Monday.

The incident comes amid rising tensions on the Israel-Gaza border.

On Monday afternoon, Palestinian terror groups fired two rockets toward the town of Sderot in what appeared to be the first such attack since May’s 11-day conflict in the Palestinian enclave, the IDF said.

Twenty-three tons of chocolate bars seized by Israel at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt that Israeli officials said were being imported into Gaza by front companies for Hamas and whose sale profits would go to fund the terror group’s military wing, August 16, 2021. (Defense Ministry)

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one of the rockets, while the second landed inside the Gaza Strip. The attack triggered sirens in Sderot, as well as the communities of Ivim, Nir Am and Erez in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.

The launch came after repeated threats by Palestinian terror groups in recent weeks over the slow pace of Gaza reconstruction and the delays in the entry of Qatari money into the Strip following May’s conflict, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

The various terror groups in the Gaza Strip, chiefly Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — which operate collectively through a “joint operations room” — were scheduled to gather later Monday to decide on next steps in ongoing ceasefire talks with Israel, but called off the meeting, apparently fearing an IDF strike.

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