The Tower cites the newspaper Al Monitor from that era, which stated that the tunnels in Gaza “gave birth to billionaires in Gaza.
Like its network of tunnels beneath the city, Gaza City’s underbelly is hidden from view and laced with money. Despite Gaza’s reputation as one of the world’s poorest areas, its leaders lead opulent lives and many have fortunes in the millions or billions of dollars.
Over 60% of people are unemployed in Gaza. According to a 2022 World Bank assessment, Gaza’s GDP per person was predicted to be $1,257, or roughly one-fourth that of the West Bank, which was estimated to be $4,458. It is among the poorest places in the world based on these numbers.
Many people blame the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which has restricted the flow of commodities into and out of the Gaza Strip since 2007, for the region’s modest economic progress. But this argument misses the real problem in Gaza, which is the Palestinian leadership’s wealth.
The tunnel economy, which was thriving due to Hamas officials charging charges, usually 20%, on all commodities smuggled through the tunnels, was the main source of profit for the Hamas leadership. In contrast to the tunnels’ own obscurity, their contribution to Hamas and its allies’ financial gain has long been known.
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More than half of Gaza’s population lives in extreme poverty today, but as early as 2012, tales circulated about 600 millionaires who made their riches via the hundreds of underground tunnels that run along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt. The Tower cites the newspaper Al Monitor from that era as saying that the trade through the tunnels “gave birth to a new class of rich people who managed to accumulate a huge fortune in a short period of time” as a result of the trade.
Many of the top officials of the terrorist group that rules Gaza maintain a low profile in public, and several have lived a significant amount of their lives dodging Israeli assassination attempts. Their fortune was likewise regarded as a mystery for many years. A lot is already known now about how these people, who were nurtured in camps for refugees as children, became solitary billionaires. However, concerns have resurfaced ever since Hamas stunned Israel with the bloodiest strike to ever originate from Gaza.
Privileges and perks for Haniyeh’s offspring
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, was captured on camera celebrating the invasion from his opulent office in Doha, the capital of Qatar, a few hours after the group’s attack on Israel began, according to The Times of Israel. Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials cheered joyfully before prostrating themselves on the ground to praise Allah.
Haniyeh, a longtime senior Hamas leader who was chosen to lead the group’s political bureau in 2017, has amassed a sizeable wealth during his time there. Since 2019, he has resided in Qatar. Although his precise net worth is unknown, it is currently thought to be at least $5 million.
Over the years, Haniyeh has accumulated tremendous riches. The US State Department labeled him as a terrorist in 2018. A 2,500 square meter tract of land in Gaza’s affluent beachside district of Rimal, next to the Shati refugee camp, was purchased by Haniyeh in 2010 for $4 million. The land was registered under his son-in-law’s name, the Egyptian weekly Rose al-Y? suf said.
According to reports, Haniyeh has since bought more homes and registered them in the names of several of his 13 children. In Gaza, one of his sons is referred to as Abu al-Akerat, which means “father of real estate”. The youngsters of Haniyeh take advantage of their luxury both inside and outside Gaza. Haniyeh’s son reportedly goes to and from Gaza, investing in real estate in Turkey and joining the family’s global businesses after obtaining a Turkish passport. Reports state that Haniyeh’s children are the owners of generators and sell energy inside Gaza, a rare good that they receive for free.
The Jerusalem Post published a study in 2021 based on intelligence data that showed Hamas controlled over forty business companies in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria, and Sudan between the early 2000s and 2018. It was stated that the majority of the companies were in the real estate and infrastructure industries, citing the business information website Double Cheque. “Hamas has chosen to manage its secret investment portfolio in Turkey because of the weak financial system in Turkey, which enables Hamas to hide its money-laundering activity and tax violations from the regulatory bodies”. Double Cheque estimated the value of these assets to be close to $500 million.
Persian Gulf real estate and financial conglomerates
It’s not only Haniyeh. According to The Times of Israel, a growing number of prominent Hamas officials left Gaza towards the end of the previous year and relocated to upscale hotels in Beirut, Doha, and Istanbul. There, they continue to live extravagant lifestyles that the people of Gaza, whom they represent, could never imagine.
Yahya Sinwar, the sixty-year-old leader of Hamas inside the Gaza Strip, has also accumulated a sizeable wealth, estimated to be between $1 and $3 million, as reported by the BBC. The founder of the Hamas security force, Sinwar, was born in the Khan Yunis refugee camp during Egypt’s occupation of the Gaza Strip. Despite being given four life sentences in Israel in 1988, he was freed in exchange for the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped, and he was later re-instated as a prominent Hamas figure. He became the Gaza Strip’s chairman of Hamas in 2017.
Moreover, there’s the man dubbed “The Brain” by the Palestinians, “The Cat with Nine Lives” by the Israelis, and now, together with Haniyeh, the mastermind behind the most recent terrorist incident. For an extended period, Israel has regarded Mohammed Deif as one of the most elusive and sought-after Hamas commanders. Three images of Deif have been released thus far: one shows him in his twenties, one shows him wearing a mask, and the third shows him entirely in shadows.
Deif (58, born Mohammed Masri) is the commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas movement’s military arm. He earned the nickname after thwarting seven attempts on his life by the Israelis, the most recent one occurring in 2021. Media reports state that Deif’s estimated net worth was $5 million as of June 1, 2023.
Another key figure in the terrorist group was Khaled Mashal (67), who was born in Silwad, in the West Bank, which was then governed by Jordan. Mashal later became the chairman of Hamas and was instrumental in forming its core in 1992. He is well-known for having made investments in Egyptian banks and real estate ventures in the Persian Gulf, accumulating a sizeable fortune, much like Haniyeh and other notables. He currently resides in Qatar. He is regarded as one of the wealthiest members of the leadership. A decade ago, Arab tabloids estimated his personal wealth to be in the billions of dollars. As of right now, the estimate is $5 billion.
Long since securing his place on the Hamas list of tycoons is also Mashal’s deputy, Dr. Musa Abu Marzouk, who was once ranked second in the Hamas hierarchy. Dr. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, a lecturer at Western Galilee College who specializes in Middle Eastern history and political science, claims that in the early 1990s, Marzouk started a drive to raise money among affluent Muslims in the US while also founding multiple banks. Elad revealed to Globes that Marzouk had transformed into a financial conglomerate with ten businesses, lending money and making investments.
Crypto – the international sanctions workaround
Apart from the tax industry on tunnels, international corporations, and worldwide finance networks, Reuters recently revealed that senior Hamas officials had discovered a means of evading international sanctions: cryptocurrencies.
According to American counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt, who spoke with Reuters, the majority of Hamas’s over $300 million in funding comes from company taxes, charitable donations, and donations from nations like Qatar and Iran. For instance, Levitt said that Hamas, which the US and Britain have designated as a terrorist group, has been using cryptocurrency more and more to get under international sanctions.
The Washington Post claims that the audio it got revealed that Russian tycoon Magomed Musaev was buying Forbes, and Austin Russell was only the “face” of the acquisition deal.
“Hamas has been one of the more successful users of crypto for the financing of terrorism,” according to Tom Robinson, co-founder of the blockchain research firm Elliptic, in an interview with Reuters. According to blockchain experts TRM Labs, Hamas-controlled crypto addresses collected more than $400,000 following the May 2021 outbreak of violence.
However according to Reuters, senior Hamas leaders declared they would avoid cryptocurrency following significant losses this year and the capacity to monitor activities in the accounting system. With Iran’s assistance, these cryptocurrency losses should be readily recovered. Last year, Iran raised the yearly funding for Hamas’s armed branch from $100 million to over $350 million.