Hamas terrorist group turns to cryptocurrency to bypass terror sanctions
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Affected Countries: palestine;
The Hamas terrorist group has enjoyed a spike in cryptocurrency donations since last month’s 11-day conflagration of violence that saw it fire over 4,300 rockets at Israel, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Gaza-based Islamist group, blacklisted as a terrorist entity by the United States, the European Union and others, launched several platforms that accept bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, allowing its backers to bypass international sanctions.
“Our fundraising strategies keep on evolving as more restrictions are being placed on us,” a Hamas official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Wall Street Journal, between May 10 and 20, as Hamas and Israeli forces clashed, the al-Qassam Brigade’s flagship website, alqassam.ps, saw a considerable increase in traffic and engagement, which is the length of time visitors remain on the site, according to an analysis by the Counter Extremism Project, a New York-based non-profit group that describes Hamas as a violent Islamist extremist group.
The site’s popularity on traffic-tracking firm Alexa leaped into the top 100,000 sites online from its previous ranking of 831,992 during that period, the report said. One in five of the visitors to alqassam.ps hails from Saudi Arabia, according to Alexa. Traffic and engagement to another major Palestinian terrorist site, saraya.ps, also rose during the conflict, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to Alexa, its ranking leaped to 255,885 after the conflict from 993,000 just before. The largest group of visitors, 28%, are based in Yemen, the traffic-tracker says.
On Telegram – a Dubai-based encrypted messaging platform that also functions as a conduit for financial transactions – the al-Qassam channel has gained 261,000 followers, six times more than that of Hamas’ political wing.
Throughout 2020, US authorities seized over $1 million in cryptocurrency linked to the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, while in 2019 the US Treasury said that since 2015 the al-Qassam Brigades had received more than $200 million from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
While some hail the transformative and democratizing potential of cryptocurrency, its opacity and lack of centralized control have seen it adopted by criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists and child pornographers.
Source: Israel Hayom