Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Hamas calls for Bitcoin donations from supporters to counter Israel

The group is increasingly isolated because of financial restrictions and Israel’s siege

Masked militants from the Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, march with their rifles during a parade along the streets of Gaza City, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. AP
Masked militants from the Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, march with their rifles during a parade along the streets of Gaza City, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. AP

Gaza’s rulers Hamas have issued a call for donations through the digital currency Bitcoin as it faces mounting challenges to receive funding in the besieged enclave.

“We are calling our supports to financially back/support us through Bitcoin,” Abu Obeida, spokesperson for the group’s military wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, said.

The group said that it would announce the “appropriate mechanism” to provide donations to the group’s efforts soon, but did not clarify when or how it wished to receive such funding.

Hamas has long struggled for funding as Israel and Egypt control the territory’s main access points. It says that it receives funding from Iran but how remains unclear.

The United States and European Union consider Hamas to be a terrorist organisation, a definition that makes the delivery of funds increasingly difficult.

Israel accuses the group of using international aid to build tunnels and its weapons arsenal through smuggling efforts.

Funding through the virtual currency would mark a change in strategy by the group. Militant groups in Syria have asked for funding through cryptocurrencies to boost their coffers as a way to circumvent the global financial system.

But this marks the first time that the Gazan rulers have publicly called for such funding, even though there have been reports that some factions in Gaza have used cryptocurrencies before.

Bitcoin has faced criticism in the past over underground websites where people have used the currency to buy drugs and guns.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. It has called for the end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza. Its rulers have previously called for Israel’s destruction, a common statement made by its backers in Iran.

The price of Bitcoin stands at around $3,400 but it has suffered a major dip in recent months due to concerns around security after several hacks of top exchanges.

Updated: January 30, 2019 05:55 PM

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