Israel seizes 189 crypto accounts linked to terror groups since 2021 – report

In most recent reported operation, Defense Ministry takes 80 accounts allegedly linked to Hamas worth $140,000, confiscates 2 wallets to ‘thwart’ Islamic State activities

Palestinian members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group in Gaza City, September 21, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)
Palestinian members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group in Gaza City, September 21, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

Israel has seized 189 cryptocurrency accounts on the Binance exchange site linked to Palestinian and Islamist terror groups since 2021, according to a report Thursday.

Most of the crypto wallets confiscated by the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) belonged to just three Palestinian currency exchange firms — Al Mutahadun For Exchange, Dubai Company for Exchange, and Al Wefaq Co. For Exchange, according to Reuters, which cited government documents.

The three companies are designated as terror entities for their suspected transfer of funds to Hamas.

Separately, the NBCTF said it confiscated two further accounts on Binance, the world’s largest bitcoin exchange site, to “thwart” activities by the Islamic State terror group, according to a document from January, signed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, which had previously not been reported.

The file did not list the amount of funds seized or how the accounts were linked to the terror organization.

Cryptocurrencies ostensibly provide a high level of anonymity, making them particularly attractive for financing criminal activity or terrorism. Bitcoin has also faced criticism over the use of the currency on underground websites where people buy drugs and guns.

Illustrative: The Binance website is seen on a computer on November 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)

In April, over NIS 500,000 ($140,000) worth of crypto was taken by the NBCTF from over 80 Binance accounts belonging to the three companies.

The bureau said the funds belonged to terror groups or were to be used for “severe terror crime.” The seizure was reported at the time in Hebrew-language media.

A person with direct knowledge of Al Mutahadun denied to Reuters that the firm collaborated with Hamas.

Al Wefaq and Dubai Co. refused to comment on the report.

Neither Binance, nor the Defense Ministry responded to Reuters’ request for comment.

Hamas has claimed it was not linked to the finance exchanges, and that the accusations were an attempt by Israel to “justify its economic war against Gaza and its people.”

Last week, Hamas’s military wing announced it would stop raising funds using the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, citing intensifying “hostile” activity against donors.

A visual representation of Bitcoin, at the ‘Bitcoin Change’ shop in Tel Aviv, February 6, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has for several years appealed for donations from supporters via Bitcoin to help counter its financial woes.

Israel and the United States have cracked down on Hamas’s cryptocurrency financing efforts, seizing dozens of digital wallets used by the group that rules the Gaza Strip since it launched the initiative in 2019.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, and others.

Hamas officials say its military wing receives significant support from Iran, although the routes through which these funds are transferred are opaque. Last month, Gallant said Iran provides Hamas with some $100 million annually.

Emanuel Fabian and Agencies contributed to this report.

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