The US State Department has announced a reward of up to $10 million for information that leads to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza. This move represents the latest effort by the US to undermine Hamas by targeting its funding sources.
Hamas was founded in 1987 at the start of the first Palestinian intifada against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It has engaged in suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, leading the US, Israel and other countries to designate it as a terrorist organization.
Over the years, Hamas has received financial and military support from countries like Iran. It also generates its own revenue through taxes and investments in Gaza. According to estimates, Hamas brings in $700 million per year from taxes on goods entering Gaza from Israel and Egypt.
The group came to power in Gaza after winning elections in 2006. Since then, it has fought three wars against Israel. The most recent conflict was an 11-day clash in 2021 that killed at least 230 people in Gaza and 12 people in Israel.
US Reward Offer
On January 5, 2024, the US Rewards for Justice program announced rewards of up to $5 million each for information on five Hamas financiers – Muhammad Sarur, Kamal Abdelrazek Attalla Awad, Muhammad Yazji, Zaher Jabarin and Fawaz Mushtaha.
The five men are accused of handling hundreds of millions of dollars used to fund Hamas’ terrorist operations. The US said the funds enable attacks against both military and civilian targets like nightclubs, buses and other public venues.
In its announcement, the State Department said – “The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is seeking information on key Hamas financial facilitators Mohammad Sarur, Kamal Abdelrazek Attalla Awad, Muhammad Yazji, Zaher Jabarin, and Fawaz Mushtaha. These five Hamas financiers leverage their vast wealth and financial networks in Lebanon, Turkey, Sudan, Qatar, Iran, and elsewhere to fund terrorist operations.”
This represents the first such reward offer focused solely on Hamas. The aim is to generate information that can help dismantle the group’s financial operations.
The Israeli government welcomed the US announcement, calling it an “important step” in the fight against Palestinian terrorism. Israel has long pressed for international action against Hamas’ donors and fundraisers.
Other reactions were mixed. The Palestinian Authority criticized the rewards offer. Hamas itself dismissed the move, saying the US would fail in trying to get Palestinians to inform on each other for money.
Some analysts said the impact of the rewards may be limited, as Hamas has proved adept at hiding its funding and adapting when sources dry up. But the move does signal Washington’s commitment to targeting the group.
The US rewards program will likely get tips and leads from informants hoping to collect the $10 million bounty. But verifying and acting on intelligence about Hamas’ opaque finances will be challenging.
Israel may conduct airstrikes or other operations against new Hamas-linked targets revealed by informants. However, avoiding civilian casualties that could ignite another war would be a priority.
Hamas could face greater scrutiny of its banking channels and connections in places like Turkey, Qatar and Lebanon. But it has survived past crackdowns by diversifying funding sources.
Ongoing mediation efforts by Egypt and others to cement a long-term Israel-Hamas truce may be complicated if more of the group’s finances are disrupted.
The US may designate more Hamas leaders as global terrorists and squeeze allies like Qatar to expel the group’s leaders from safe havens. But Qatar and Turkey have resisted previous US pressure on Hamas.
In summary, the $10 million bounty offers incentives for informants to expose Hamas’ financial secrets. But substantial and lasting disruption of the group’s funding is far from guaranteed due to its adaptability and ongoing regional tensions. Hamas remains resilient and confronting it continues to pose dilemmas with no easy solutions.
|Hamas financier based in Turkey
|Kamal Abdelrazek Attalla Awad
|Hamas financier based in Qatar
|Hamas financier based in Lebanon
|Hamas financier based in Turkey
|Senior Hamas leader and financier
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