More than 100 cryptocurrency accounts on platforms such as the Binance exchange have been frozen as part of an effort by Israel to block funding for Hamas, a terrorist group that received more than $40 million from similar sites between 2021 and 2023.
Since October 7, Israeli law enforcement agencies have ordered an account freeze on Binance and a closure inspection of around 200 accounts, quoted by The Financial Times said Tuesday.
Binance complied with the closure of some accounts and said it follows internationally recognized sanctions laws, but declined to comment further. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao did not comment on the asset seizure.
It comes after the revelation, revealed yesterday by Israeli research agencies, that Hamas has received a huge amount of funding through the cryptocurrency sites.
Crypto wallets linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad received approximately $91 million between August 2021 and June 2023. Hamas seized approximately $41 million during the same period.
Tether, a cryptocurrency issuer, yesterday froze 32 digital wallets containing a combined $800,000 as part of the effort.
Since the October 7 attack on Israel, Israeli intelligence services say links to Hamas crypto donation sites have surfaced regularly.
Hamas and its military wing received about $41 million in digital currencies between August 2021 and June 2023, according to analysis by BitOK, a Tel Aviv-based company.
Separate research by Elliptic, another crypto research firm, found that wallets linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad – another designated terror group – received approximately $91 million in the same time frame. Wall Street Journal reported.
Receiving money in the form of cryptocurrencies, which do not require mainstream financial institutions as intermediaries, could help the groups avoid sanctions intended to limit their funding.
The findings come as US officials step up efforts to regulate the broader crypto industry. Senator Elizabeth Warren said that “the danger of crypto-funded terrorism is real and should be an urgent priority for Congress.”
Israeli soldiers walk past houses destroyed by Hamas militants in Kibbutz Be’eri, Israel, Saturday, October 14, 2023
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis on October 15, 2023
More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since Hamas launched its attack on October 7. Fighters from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also involved in the attack. Nearly 200 Israelis, including children, have been kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza, Israel said.
The Health Ministry in Gaza said 2,670 Palestinians have been killed and 9,600 injured since the fighting broke out. More than a million people have fled their homes ahead of an expected Israeli ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas.
Israeli officials have previously said that the rise of cryptocurrencies has made it harder to track and block funding for groups like Hamas.
Elliptic’s investigation found that between August 2021 and April 2023, wallets linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad received millions of dollars every month. In May 2022, the group received almost $10 million.
Tom Robinson, the co-founder of Elliptic, said Hamas “has been one of the more successful users of crypto for terrorist financing.”
The groups have previously publicly solicited donations of Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. They also use so-called stablecoins, whose value is linked to that of the US dollar to prevent volatility, to carry out transactions.
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has said it has been working “in real time, 24 hours a day” since the Hamas attacks to support Israeli officials trying to freeze accounts linked to terror groups.
Armed members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – the military wing of Hamas – take part in a march in the southern Gaza Strip in December 2022
IDF soldiers move through neighborhoods destroyed by Hamas militants after attacking this kibbutz days earlier near the Gaza border on October 15, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel
A Palestinian youth reacts as he sits on the rubble of a destroyed house after an Israeli military attack on the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on October 15, 2023
Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, is currently pushing a bill to tighten regulation of cryptocurrencies, including imposing anti-money laundering rules.
She said Politics: “There is a growing, bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to passing this bill and fighting back terrorism worldwide by defunding it.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel on Monday after completing a hectic six-nation tour of Arab countries aimed at preventing the fighting from igniting a broader regional conflict, US officials said.
President Joe Biden is also considering a trip to Israel, although no plans have been finalized.
Biden has repeatedly expressed support for Israel, but he said in a TV interview that he thought it would be a “big mistake” for the country to reoccupy Gaza.
Israel’s ambassadors to the US and UN said the country does not want occupation. But Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told CNN that Israel will do whatever it takes to erase their (Hamas) capabilities.