Shin Bet: Gaza trader funneled millions to Hamas

Security forces arrest metal trader, believed to have sold materials to Hamas's military wing in Gaza.

Gazans collect metal smuggled through tunnels 370 (R) (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
Gazans collect metal smuggled through tunnels 370 (R)
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
Security forces have arrested a Gaza metal trader on suspicion of transferring millions of dollars to Hamas members, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Thursday.
The man, who imports and sells iron, is also believed to have sold materials to Hamas’s military wing in Gaza – which were used to construct tunnels, bunkers under mosques, and lookout positions.
Security forces have named the suspect as 41-year-old Maher Abu Gava, adding that he had been able to enter and trade in Israel with permission in the past.
Abu Gava had more than $100,000 in his possession during the arrest.
“He has confessed, during questioning, to transferring funds to Hamas and selling large quantities of metals to Hamas’s military wing,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
Abu Gava told the Shin Bet Hamas was experiencing difficulties in bringing cash from Egypt to Gaza, adding that his metal business was used by Hamas to move around money.
But “since the election of Mohamed Morsi to the presidency in Egypt, Hamas has been able to bring cash to Gaza with greater ease, through senior Hamas members who enter Egypt via the Rafah crossing, and who return with suitcases filled with cash.”
The Shin Bet said that he acted as a “central channel for transferring millions of dollars in cash to Hamas.” Hamas members abroad allegedly sent millions of dollars to Abu Gava’s relatives in Egypt, ostensibly for metal transactions, and Abu Gava then handed the money over to Hamas representatives in Gaza.
Sources in the security forces said the case highlights how Hamas exploits Israel’s policy of allowing Gaza traders to enter Israel on a daily basis, and how metals meant for construction end up serving Hamas’s military wing.
“The cynical way in which Hamas constructs bunkers under mosques is also apparent,” a source added. “They do this because they think Israel will be frightened of attacking religious places during combat.”
On September 30, the Southern District Attorney’s Office submitted an indictment against Maher Abu Gava for a range of crimes, mostly involving contact with Hamas agents and the financing of Hamas, in the Beersheba District Court.
The accused imported iron from various countries, including Turkey, to the Ashdod port, said the indictment. It alleged that he kept the iron in storage areas in Israel until it was time to transfer them to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing. The accused had business partners in Israel and was assisted by his brother, Mahmoud, who lives in Egypt.
The total amount of cash transferred to Hamas on various trips was $3.35 million.
Abu Gava is accused of the transfer of funds to Hamas, who then transferred funds to Mahmoud in amounts ranging between $150,000 and $500,000.
Abu Gava’s also sold 470 tons worth of iron, at a value of $420,000 to Hamas, the indictment said. The sales were made mostly in the years 2009-2010, said the indictment.
The indictment included charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, contact with foreign agents, support for a terrorist organization and prohibited use of property for terrorist purposes. The state attorney also submitted a motion to seize the accused’s property under the Law Prohibiting Terror Financing.
A hearing on how long the accused will continue to be held in custody is set for November 13.