17 May 2021
While Hamas is launching rockets at Israeli cities and Israel is pulverising Gaza with airstrikes, they are also at war on a very different battlefield.
Among the targets Israel has hit in the Gaza Strip are Hamas’s financial offices and five bank branches. Ostensibly these are non-military targets but western intelligence sources maintain they are intrinsically linked to Hamas’s military operations and are also part of the reason Hamas decided to launch its surprise attack on Israel last week.
The reason Hamas gave for the attacks is that the Palestinian military Islamist movement is “safeguarding Al Aqsa,” the mosque in Jerusalem where Israeli police twice clashed with protesters in recent days. But there are other issues bothering the Hamas leadership.
According to intelligence dossiers seen by The Times, Hamas’s financial infrastructure has been drastically squeezed in the past two years. A large part of the movement’s income comes from a network of front-organisations that present themselves as Islamic charity foundations and collect money from millions of donors for welfare in Palestine and the protection of Al Aqsa.
Three countries have served as the main conduits for transferring the tens of millions collected annually to Hamas — the UK, Malaysia and Turkey. But in the past two years, the authorities in these countries, including Britain’s Charity Commission, have cracked down on their operations, demanding more documentation and in some cases closing them down altogether.
In some cases they have received information from intelligence services. In Turkey, as reported in the past by The Times, the government of President Erdogan, has been concerned that the sanctuary it gave Hamas members has been used by the group to carry out espionage operations and wage cyberwarfare on Arab countries.
By Anshel Pfeffer, The Times, 16 May 2021
Read more at The Times
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