The IDF and Shin Bet thwarted a Hamas terrorism financing scheme using Gazans who were entering Israel for humanitarian reasons or with work permits and student activists at the Birzeit University in the West Bank, the IDF's Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee announced on Thursday.
The terrorist movement used the financing scheme in order to transfer funds from the Gaza Strip to Hamas members in Turkey and to finance terrorist activities in the West Bank and Turkey.
A group of student activists at Birzeit University were arrested in the case after they were caught in possession of credit cards that were used to transfer illegal funds from the Hamas leadership in Gaza to Hamas officials in Turkey.
The money was smuggled out of Gaza using people who entered Israel for humanitarian reasons or with the aim of looking for work. The students at Birzeit University then withdrew the money from ATMs in Ramallah and used the funds for terrorist purposes, including to fund Hamas activists who belong to the Islamic bloc, which is considered to be student cells who work for Hamas at educational institutions in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Defense establishment cracks down on Hamas funding schemes in past year
The Hamas movement has been caught using a variety of schemes in recent years to fund its activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and abroad.
In August, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed several designations and property seizure orders on Wednesday, imposing international restrictions on 20 parties involved in Hamas’ investment mechanism, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to the Defense Ministry, Hamas’ investment system is part of the terror group’s international financing campaign and the group “covertly manages a mechanism valued at hundreds of millions of dollars through a network of international companies that operate under the guise of legitimate companies” that conceal Hamas’ control of their holdings.
In March, Israel Police and the Shin Bet announced that they had uncovered a Hamas financing scheme that had used a platform claiming to be a charitable organization in east Jerusalem to transfer money and support to families of terrorists. Three people related to each other from the Sur Baher neighborhood of east Jerusalem were arrested immediately after they landed in Israel in February on suspicion of being involved in the scheme.
One of the suspects in the case, Khaled Sabah, was appointed as head of Hamas in Jerusalem while meeting with Hamas officials Khaled Atoun and Musa Akari in Turkey. Sabah was also tasked with recruiting new operatives for Hamas, collecting more funds and additional operations.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.