Israel said Thursday it is starting to seize cryptocurrency accounts used by the Palestinian Hamas group to raise funds for its armed wing using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Minister, ordered security forces to seize the accounts after a joint operation “uncovered a web of electronic wallets” used by Hamas to raise money, the ministry said.
As he said, Hamas has been waging an online campaign to raise funds for its military wing, efforts that accelerated after the 11-day war in Gaza in May, using cryptocurrencies because they are perceived as hard to trace.
Gantz also claimed in a statement: “The intelligence, technological and legal tools that enable us to get our hands on terrorists’ money around the world constitute an operational breakthrough.”
According to a blog post of Chainalysis, a blockchain investigation firm focused on open-source data analysis, such as social media and blockchain, the blockchain analysis reveals the movement of donation funds to exchanges. Chainalysis published a report showing Bitcoin transactions carried out by addresses listed by the NBCTF, many of which have been related to individuals involved in Hamas donation campaigns.
The analysis showed that these digital wallets received more than $7.7 million in different cryptocurrencies. Aside from BTC, the Israeli ministry intercepted payments in ETH, XRP, USDT, and DOGE, as the Times of Israel reported. The crypto-cash has been seized under Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Law since 2016.
As the US justice department claimed before, it had seized millions of dollars from cryptocurrency accounts last year that armed groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, used to finance their organizations. According to the department report, it had locked up about $2 million, more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages related to this activity.
One step of the U.S. investigation led toward the military wing of Hamas. Law enforcement officials seized more than 150 cryptocurrency accounts that they say laundered funds operated by the group.
As recently reported, the Palestinian Monetary Authority is researching the possibility of issuance of its own digital currency, which would provide a move to monetary independence from Israel.