The recent terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Israelis and the capture of over 200 people from Israel, have prompted the United States to take immediate action to cut off funding to the Palestinian militant organization. In an effort to effectively address this issue, the U.S. Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, has met with officials in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. While the U.S. is prepared to take unilateral action if necessary, Nelson emphasized the importance of strategic alignment with regional partners to maximize the chances of success. The Treasury Department is hinting at further action to be taken in the future, but countering the funding network of Hamas remains a challenging and complex task.
The U.S. officials responsible for combating the funding of Hamas have stated that the group’s fundraising apparatus is extensive. Hamas receives a significant portion of its funds through charitable organizations that, at times, legitimately provide aid to civilians and civil projects in Gaza. Distinguishing between legitimate aid and funds used for illicit purposes can be challenging. Juan Zarate, former assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in charge of tracking and eliminating financing for terrorists, explained that Hamas has been able to operate under a cloak of legitimacy due to its governance of Gaza. This has resulted in governments, including the U.S., being less aggressive in targeting the group. However, the recent attacks have led to a change in approach, and the U.S. is now actively seeking to curtail the funding of Hamas.
In addition to funds received from charitable organizations, Hamas also generates revenue by taxing the people of Gaza on locally produced goods, as well as imported goods. Iran is another major funding source for the militant organization, according to officials at the Treasury and State departments. Calls have been made by supporters of Israel for the U.S. to increase monitoring of oil exports from Iran, which have been allowed to go through despite ongoing sanctions. Concerns over the potential impact on oil prices and the global economy have led the U.S. government to be cautious in cutting off Iran’s oil supply. When individuals or institutions are placed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s designated terror funding list, financial institutions around the world are alerted to block transactions involving them. However, critics argue that the current system has not been effective enough in preventing money from reaching Hamas.
Financial institutions play a critical role in preventing funds from reaching designated terrorist organizations. However, Gary Osen, an attorney who has successfully sued terror financiers for aiding Hamas in the past, believes that the banking system has not done enough to block money being funneled to Hamas. Osen highlights the case of Turkey’s IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a suspected Hamas fundraiser that remains untouched by the U.S. Treasury Department. Despite evidence supporting the listing of IHH as a financial sponsor of Hamas terrorism, diplomatic considerations, such as its close ties to the Turkish government, a NATO ally, may be hindering action against the organization. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of the current system in preventing terrorist funding.
Cutting off funding to Hamas is a crucial step in countering terrorism and ensuring the safety of innocent lives. The U.S. government recognizes the urgency of this task and is actively engaging with regional partners to address the issue. The extensive and complex nature of the Hamas funding network presents significant challenges, particularly in distinguishing between legitimate aid and illicit funds. Moreover, alternative funding sources, such as revenue generated through taxation and support from Iran, further complicate the situation. The role of financial institutions in preventing funds from reaching designated terrorist organizations is crucial, but there are concerns about the effectiveness of the current system. It is imperative for the international community to come together and take coordinated action to cut off funding to Hamas and prevent further acts of terror.