Israel said it will begin seizing cryptocurrency accounts used by the Palestinian Hamas group to raise money for its armed wing.
Getting with the times, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered security forces to seize the accounts after a joint operation, the ministry said, “uncovered a web of electronic wallets” used by Hamas to raise funds using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
Gantz approved the seizure of a series of digital wallets on June 30 after a joint operation “uncovered a web of electronic wallets” used by Hamas to raise funds using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the ministry said.
In addition to Bitcoin, the Defense Ministry has succeeded in seizing such payments made in other digital currencies, including XRP, Ethereum, Tether and joke crypto Dogecoin, in accordance with the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law.
“The intelligence, technological and legal tools that enable us to get our hands on terrorists’ money around the world constitute an operational breakthrough,” Gantz was quoted as saying in the statement.
It added that Hamas has been waging an online campaign to raise donations for its military wing, efforts that accelerated after the 11-day war in Gaza in May this year.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are favoured for illicit transactions because they are perceived as hard to trace.
Noa Mashiah, the CEO of the Israeli Bitcoin Association, said that the news proves the safety of digital currencies.
“The seizure and forfeiture of Hamas’s donations proves that Bitcoin is a safe currency,” said Mashiah. “Criminals who make use of this financial system will find out the hard way that the open transaction log, the blockchain, will expose them and allow law enforcement agencies to act against them.”
Mashiah said the seizure marks “a significant improvement over the anti-money laundering ban and also over international bank accounts hidden behind a bank secrecy wall.” The news only further proves that Israeli regulators should “adopt and use” Bitcoin and other digital currencies, “as it makes it possible to expose the bad and do good with the good.”
Omri Segev Moyal, CEO of the cyber crisis company Profero, said the digital footprint of such currency trading exchanges allows for security operatives to swoop in.
“Once you go beyond the boundaries of the blockchain to the worlds of trading platforms, you immediately lose anonymity and then, as in the present case, states and law enforcement agencies are able to locate and freeze the currencies of criminal and terrorist organizations,” said Moyal.
“In addition, when the network is completely exposed, you can very accurately track the trajectory of the coins and locate their final destination.”
In 2020, the US justice department said it had seized millions of dollars from cryptocurrency accounts that armed groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, relied on to finance their organisations and violent plots.
The department said it had confiscated about $2m, in addition to more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites and four Facebook pages related to the schemes.
One part of the US investigation targeted the military wing of Hamas. Law enforcement officials seized more than 150 cryptocurrency accounts that they say laundered funds to and from accounts operated by the group.
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