memri
October 23, 2023 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1721

How Hamas, Along With Other Gaza Jihadi Organizations, Raised Over $100 Million In Cryptocurrency To Fund Their Jihad Against Israel – From 2019 To Today

October 23, 2023 | By Steven Stalinsky, Ph.D.*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1721

Introduction

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 11, 2023 that the October 7 early morning attack on Israel by Hamas had "raised the question how the group financed the surprise operation. One answer: cryptocurrency." It went on to cite recent research showing how as much as $130 million, or even more, in cryptocurrency had been raised since August 2021 by Hamas and its fellow Gaza terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad.[1]

Even as Hamas launched its attack, its cryptocurrency fundraising campaign – its latest fundraising effort – was in full swing, and these efforts are ongoing. Hamas was one of the first terrorist organization to use cryptocurrency, with attempts at doing so beginning at least as early as 2019.[2] Since then, Hamas supporters have used cryptocurrency to varying extents to fund the organization's activities – and multiple arrests have been made in the U.S. in connection with these efforts.

The MEMRI Cyber & Jihad Lab (CJL) and Jihad & Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) projects are intensively researching this cryptocurrency activity, by monitoring Arabic, Farsi, social media, and official terrorist websites, as well as activity on encrypted platforms. The following report will detail and review Hamas's recent cryptocurrency activity and provide an overview of it since 2019, which funds its "economic jihad."

U.S. Takes Severe Action Against Hamas Cryptocurrency

Several leading members of Congress have underlined the significance of Hamas's cryptocurrency following the attack and questions raised on how the jihadi organization was able to fund it. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted on October 11: "It's alarming and should be a wakeup call for lawmakers and regulators that digital wallets connected to Hamas received millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies."[3] She added: "Crypto is the not-so-secret financial weapon funding terrorist organizations like Hamas, Chinese fentanyl networks and North Korea's missile program."

Also on October 11, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said that while "Congress's priority right now must be providing robust military, economic, and humanitarian aid to support Israel," it was also important to "confirm key national security nominees who play a critical role in working with their Israeli partners." He added: "While we undertake this work, the Banking and Housing Committee will examine the financing behind Hamas's attacks, including whether cryptocurrency was involved, and what additional economic tools we need to stop state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, from supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups. As we work to hold anyone who supports terrorism accountable, the administration must freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets."[4]

Earlier, on August 29, 2023, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), senior member of both the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and the Financial Services Committee, had said: "Cryptocurrency means 'hidden money' – its goal is right there in the name. Pleased to see the U.S. Treasury Department propose rules today that require crypto platforms to report its customers transactions to the IRS – a measure Rep. Stephen Lynch and I urged for earlier this summer."[5]

A bipartisan group of over 100 lawmakers led by Senators Warren and Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Representative Sean Casten (D-IL) signed a letter[6] to the Biden Administration demanding answers over cryptocurrency's role in financing the attack on October 17. The letter also requested that Treasury Department undersecretary Brian Nelson and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan inform them of the administration's plans to address the group's current cryptocurrency capabilities.[7]

Read the letter and view the list of signatories here

Past U.S. government efforts have successfully disrupted the movement of cryptocurrency into Hamas coffers. In a case dating from August 2020, IRS Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, and FBI agents tracked and seized 150 cryptocurrency accounts that moved funds to and from the accounts of Hamas's military wing, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. Law enforcement later seized the Al-Qassam Brigades websites' infrastructure and covertly operated Alqassam.net – which meant that funds in cryptocurrency sent by Hamas supporters with the aim of providing material support to terrorist organization were routed to U.S.-government controlled wallets.[8]

On October 18, 2023, the Biden administration announced new sanctions on Hamas targeting 10 Hamas members, a Qatar-based financial facilitator with ties to Iran, a top Hamas commander, and a Gaza-based cryptocurrency exchange.[9] The Qatar-based facilitator, Muhammad Ahmad 'Abd Al-Dayim Nasrallah, was in recent years involved in the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Hamas and the Al-Qassam Brigades.[10]

Not Just Jihadis: Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, And Antigovernment Extremists Are Also Raising Funds In Cryptocurrency For Hamas

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and antigovernment extremists on social media platforms have been expressing unprecedented support for Hamas, its killing of civilians, and its calls for killing Jews in general. It is no surprise that these same groups have also been trying to financially support Hamas using cryptocurrency and other means. As one Neo-Nazi wrote on Telegram, "there are strategic advantages to pro-white and Arab groups in pooling legal resources against Zionists."

An example of this happening in crypto is the "National Socialist" group on one of the leading extremist platforms. A user shared, on October 15, 2023, cryptocurrency addresses for Bitcoin and Ethereum cryptocurrency, and added: "Personally, I hope my donation goes towards the paraglider fund. They could use some relaxation and recreation." The reference is to the Hamas members who used paragliders, inter alia, to enter southern Israel to carry out their October 7, 2023 attack.

The Most Recent Hamas Cryptocurrency Campaign, Ongoing As Hamas Launched Its Attack, Is Still Online And Accepting Funds In Ethereum Cryptocurrency

A pro-Hamas Gaza-based news agency called "Gaza Now" has fundraised in and accepted donations in cryptocurrency for Hamas over the past two years. As a MEMRI JTTM report revealed, the agency initially used Bitcoin, and then moved to Ethereum. In a June 9, 2021 message on its Telegram channel,[11] it solicited donations for the Hamas military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the E.U., the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.

The message provided a contact email for donations[12] – the same email used by the Brigades themselves to solicit donations in Bitcoin.[13] Gaza Now's Facebook page had, at the time of writing, over three million followers,[14] as it did on its Instagram,[15] Twitter,[16] and Telegram[17] accounts and on its own website.[18] The call for cryptocurrency donations appeared only on its Telegram channel.   According to a report that Forbes cited, crypto wallet addresses that Gaza Now uses have seen about $6 million in incoming and outgoing volume and about $6,000 since the October 7 attack.[19]

 

"Gaza Now" promoted, on its Telegram account on October 9, 2023,  a fundraising campaign for Gaza, in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel.[20] The posts promoted donation options including money transfer apps, social media accounts, and crypto wallets, including in U.S. dollars or Euros via Wise money transfer app and through bank accounts located in Belgium and the U.S.[21]

 

In a third promotion of fundraising following the Hamas attack, the "Gaza Now" Telegram channel shared a post in English for an "emergency" campaign run by a London-based company called Alqureshi Executives to support the "war on Gaza." Further, the "Gaza Now" Telegram channel provided an email account for donations via PayPal, as well as the address of a wallet to donate the TRC20 and Tether (USDT) cryptocurrencies, and a permalink to a fundraiser on Instagram. The post was later deleted.[22]

Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, wrote on its website on October 10 that as of that day, "Israel's cybercrime unit, in collaboration with Binance, has successfully seized multiple cryptocurrency accounts linked to the Hamas terrorist organization. This operation was initiated in conjunction with the Ministry of Defense, the Israel Security Agency, and national intelligence agencies."[23] (See more on Binance seizures below.) As of this writing, access to the Instagram fundraising link provided by "Gaza Now" was suspended.[24]

Shortly after the accounts were removed, on October 11, 2023, "Gaza Now" posted details on its Telegram channel[25] for donating to Gaza in Tether (USDT) cryptocurrency. The details included a QR code, network identifier, and wallet address.[26] A scan of the QR code returns a Blockchain address,[27] with an Ethereum balance equal to about $1,575.77.[28]

Additionally, on October 23, 2023, the "Gaza Now in English" channel shared a link to Bitcoin and Ethereum accounts that are is accepting donations for the Gaza Strip, and warned donors not to donate using Tether because it is not possible to withdraw U.S. dollars.[29]

On the same day, the channel published[30] a post in Arabic and English reporting that Binance had "banned all accounts that support 'Gaza,' by decision of the Israeli occupation." The channel called on the "Arab and Islamic community" to officially boycott the platform. While the Gaza Now outlet is one recent example, other campaigns to raise funds for the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades using cryptocurrency go back at least to early 2019.

January 2023 – U.S. Court Filing Provides Insight into Hamas Cryptocurrency Donors

A January 2023 Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) court filing asserted that Binance was aware that Hamas terrorists were using its platform for illegal activity. The court filing stated: "Internally, Binance officers, employees, and agents have acknowledged that the Binance platform has facilitated potentially illegal activities. For example, in February 2019, after receiving information 'regarding HAMAS transactions' on Binance, Lim explained to a colleague that terrorists usually send 'small sums' as 'large sums constitute money laundering.' Lim's colleague replied: 'can barely buy an AK47 with 600 bucks.'"[31] The National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) reported that two Binance accounts had been seized in January 2023 to "thwart the activity" of ISIS and "impair its ability to further its goals."[32] Still, the court filings would have little impact in the first half of 2023 as Hamas continued to fundraise using cryptocurrency.

 

April 10, 2023 – Hamas Military Wing Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades Calls For Donations In Bitcoin

The Al-Qassam Brigades issued a call for Bitcoin donations on April 10, 2023. It added that those seeking additional information or who wished to donate by other methods could contact the group using the email address fund@alqassam.ps. It wrote that since the Al-Aqsa Mosque is an inseparable part of the Islamic faith and since Palestine is the just cause of the Islamic nation, every free person must take part in jihad and in helping the oppressed. Hamas later announced it would no longer be accepting cryptocurrency donations. [33]

April 26, 2023 – Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades Says It Stopped Accepting Cryptocurrency Following U.S., Israeli Moves Against It – But May Actually Have Continued To Do So

On April 26, 2023, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades announced on its official website that it was no longer accepting donations in Bitcoin. The group explained that its decision was "out of concern for the safety of donors and to not expose them to any harm, particularly in light of the intensification of harassment and the redoubling of hostile efforts against anyone who tries to support the resistance using this currency."[34]

2021-2023 – Multiple U.S. And Israeli Seizures Of Hamas's Millions Of Dollars In Cryptocurrencies

As noted, it was reported on May 4, 2023 that in 2021 through 2023 Israel had seized nearly 200 cryptocurrency accounts at the Binance cryptocurrency exchange. This included two that Israel said were linked to ISIS and dozens of others it said were owned by Palestinian firms connected to Hamas.[35] Israel Defense Ministry documents dated January 12, 2023 gave details of the seizure of the two accounts it said were linked to ISIS.[36]

Earlier, in August 2020, the Department of Justice announced it had conducted "the largest ever seizure of terrorist organization's cryptocurrency accounts." According to the DOJ's announcement, Hamas and other groups it had found using cryptocurrency relied on "sophisticated cyber-tools" and was using social media to raise money.

The first seizure involved the Al-Qassam Brigades and its online cryptocurrency fundraising efforts. In the beginning of 2019, the Al-Qassam Brigades posted a call on its social media page for bitcoin donations to fund its campaign. The Al-Qassam Brigades later moved this request to its official websites, alqassam.net, alqassam.ps, and qassam.ps.

The Al-Qassam Brigades said that bitcoin donations could not be traced and would be used for violence. Their websites gave supporters video instruction on how to donate anonymously, in part by using unique bitcoin addresses generated for each individual donor.

The IRS, Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI overcame these efforts and tracked and seized all 150 cryptocurrency accounts that laundered funds to and from the Al-Qassam Brigades' accounts. Law enforcement also executed criminal search warrants relating to those in the United States who had donated to the organization.

Law enforcement seized the infrastructure of the Al-Qassam Brigades websites and subsequently covertly operated alqassam.net, during which operation the website received funds from people seeking to materially support the terrorist organization, unknowingly donating to bitcoin wallets controlled by the United States.

The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia also unsealed criminal charges for two Turkish nationals, Mehmet Akti and Hüsamettin Karataş, who had acted as related money launderers while operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.[37]

2021 – Israeli Government Seizes Hamas Crypto Accounts

Israel's National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) announced on June 30, 2021 that it had seized cryptocurrencies held by several wallets associated with donation campaigns carried out by Hamas. The action came after more than $100,000 in cryptocurrency donations to Al-Qassam Brigades in May, after increased fighting between the group and Israeli forces, according to various media reports.

The NBCTF seized not only Bitcoin, but Ether, Tether, and XRP. The seizure was made possible through an investigation of open-source intelligence and blockchain data, according to the Chainalysis report.[38]

That year, 2021, Israeli authorities blocked 84 addresses believed to be linked to Hamas that had received $7.7 million in crypto assets, according to Elliptic, a blockchain forensics firm.[39] The same year, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed orders for the seizure of 2.6 million shekels ($836,168) in cryptocurrency from a currency exchange firm with ties to the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip and for the seizure of crypto wallets belonging to the Gazan family that runs the currency exchange. The Defense Ministry said that the exchange had increased its activity in May 2019, after the IDF assassinated Hamed Ahmed Khudari, a Gaza terrorist responsible for transferring Iranian funds to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.[40]

The terror financing network was exposed in a joint operation involving IDF Intelligence, the National Headquarters on Terrorist Economic Counter-Terrorism at the Defense Ministry, the cybercrimes department of the Israel Police's Lahav 443 Major Crimes Unit, and the State Attorney's Office's Cyber Unit. Hamas operates a network of currency exchanges that bring goods and funds into Gaza. The currency exchange targeted with the order is known to transfer millions of dollars to the terrorist group each year and as such has been designated a terrorist organization by the State of Israel. [41]

January 29, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades Promotes Bitcoin Use, Announces Plans To Send "Hundreds Of Millions" Of Text Messages In Multiple Languages Explaining How To Donate

The above seizure of Hamas accounts had followed extensive Hamas-linked fundraising beginning in January 2019. On January 29, 2019, Al-Qassam Brigades, called on its supporters to send it funds in Bitcoin. The fundraising campaign was disseminated widely, across many social media platforms, including Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Skype, WhatsApp, and WordPress.

Al-Qassam's announcement, which was posted on the Telegram channel of Al-Qassam spokesman Abu Ubaida, hinted that Bitcoin would be a way to combat Israel's crackdown on aid for the group. The message read: "The Zionist enemy combats the resistance [i.e., Hamas] by attempting to stop the support [it receives] by any means, but the supporters of the resistance in the entire world are fighting these Zionist's attempts and are seeking to find all possible means to support it... We call upon all supporters of the resistance and aides of our just cause to support the resistance financially through Bitcoin using mechanisms that we will soon publish."

On the same day, Abu Ubaida wrote on Instagram: "The Zionist enemy fights the Palestinian resistance by trying to cut aid to the resistance by all means, but lovers of resistance around the world fight these Zionist attempts and seek all possible means to aid the resistance." He promised to supply more details later of how supporters could contribute by Bitcoin.

January 30, 2019 – Gaza Academic And Journalist Hussam Al-Dajany: People Can Now Donate To Hamas Undetected Using Bitcoin

Palestinian journalist Hussam Al-Dajany, who also lectures at Gaza Open University, said in an interview that aired January 30, 2019 on Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV that Hamas is accepting Bitcoin donations. Bitcoin, he explained, provides an opportunity to unite people who are afraid to or cannot openly support the Palestinian resistance because it is safe and reliable, and it cannot be tracked by security agencies. He added that money is what the resistance needs the most and that it costs millions of dollars to pay salaries, manufacture rockets, smuggle weapons, dig tunnels, and build drones. Despite Iran's open support of the Palestinian resistance, he said, the sanctions imposed on it might prevent enough money from getting to Hamas, so Bitcoin is being resorted to as an indirect way for people to "participate in the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque."[42]

January 31, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades Publishes Its Bitcoin Address To Accept Donations

The Al-Qassam Brigades published its Bitcoin address on January 31, 2019, and announced that it was accepting donations. The announcement came a day after a spokesman for the group said that the group would be using the cryptocurrency to combat Israel's constraints on the group's funding. This announcement too was posted on the Al-Qassam Brigades' Telegram channel. The address shows eight transactions with about $110 in funds received in Bitcoin (BTC) and less than a dollar in Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

February 2, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades Updates Bitcoin Address For Greater Privacy And Security

The Al-Qassam Brigades updated its bitcoin address on February 2, 2019. It said that the update was aimed at increasing privacy and security. The new bitcoin address given was 17QAW GVpFV 4gZ25N Qug46e 5mBho4uDP6MD.

 

February 4, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades Publishes New Posters Promoting Bitcoin Fundraising Campaign

The Al-Qassam Brigades published posters on February 4, 2019 promoting its Bitcoin fundraising campaign.


Alqassam.net/arabic, accessed February 4, 2019


Alqassam.net/arabic, accessed February 4, 2019

On February 5, 2019, Al-Qassam's latest Bitcoin address showed as still active, with nearly $2,000 in total funds. The blockchain also showed very small sums (for example, the 63 cents below) – a practice known as "dusting" aimed generally at deanonymizing the account.

Two days later, on February 7, 2019, the Bitcoin address, which was still active, showed that the most recent donation was that day, for $147.90. The total as of this date was $2,276.40.

Then, on February 10, 2019, Al-Qassam Brigades reposted the poster calling for donations in Bitcoin; at that time, the bitcoin address showed $2,305 in received funds. As of February 17, 2019, it showed a total of $2,755.

It was reported on February 13, 2019 it that a civil rights group had threatened the leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase with a lawsuit if it did not put a stop to the Hamas fundraising on its platform. The group wrote: "It has recently come to our attention that the notorious Palestinian terrorist group Hamas currently maintains an account with Coinbase, Inc. through which it is accepting donations. Therefore, I am writing to notify Coinbase that knowingly providing material support or resources to Hamas is a violation of U.S. federal criminal law, and to demand that Coinbase immediately terminate any and all accounts and services provided to Hamas." Additionally, Coinbase may be in breach of its own Terms of Service, which forbids the use of the service for a promotion involving violent crimes. Subsequently, Coinbase shut down the Hamas fundraising campaign.

March 24, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades Releases Video Of How To Donate To It Securely In Bitcoin

The Al-Qassam Brigades released a short video on March 24, 2019 that set out secure methods for sending it donations using bitcoin. The clip was released as part of a social media campaign including posters, clips, and calls from religious figures, and urges supporters to donate in cryptocurrency to the organization. The video, in Arabic with English subtitles, gave the following guidelines: The donor should first visit the donation link, fund.alqassam.net, where a QR code and wallet address (to which the donation will be sent) will appear.

The donor is then instructed to copy the wallet address or scan the QR code with their cellular phone. Each user receives a unique address which is not to be shared with anyone. The donation can then be sent in one of the following methods:

Method #1: The donor should ask any money exchange office to deposit the amount in the wallet address received from the Qassam website. The donor must be sure not to mention who owns the address.

Method #2: If the donor has a secure wallet, they are to transfer the money directly to the Qassam wallet. A secure Bitcoin wallet is created by using one of the trusted sites, as well as by using a public device so that the wallet is not linked to the donor's IP address.

Method #3: The donor should create a new account on one of the trading platforms and deposit the donation amount into their platform account using one's credit card. Then, they transfer the amount from the platform account to their secure wallet, from where it is transferred to the Qassam wallet.

If they wish to donate again, they may either transfer the money to the same wallet address previously used or receive a new address from the Qassam website, at least 24 hours after the first address was obtained. If the Qassam website is blocked in the donor's country, they should simply change one's IP address. The clip concludes with a message in Arabic to donors: "Dear donors, reserve a portion in the imminent victory and do not let your donation, no matter how small it may be, be considered disgraceful." The English subtitles read differently: "Our generous donor, your generous donation no matter how little it is, reflects that you stand by the Palestinian people."

On June 8, 2019, on Telegram, Al-Qassam shared the video and posted links in other languages – Arabic, English, French, Malay, Indonesian, Russian, and Turkish. It also linked to a funding page with Quran 9:41 in English: "Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is better for you, if you only knew." It continued: "The Israeli occupation is fighting the resistance by trying hard to block any support for it, but the resistance's friends around the world are fighting back against such Israeli attempts and seeking all possible ways to support the resistance. Your generous donation, no matter how little it is, reflects your stand by Palestinian people. We call upon friends of the Palestinians and supporters of our just cause to financially back the resistance via Bitcoin on the following wallet address." The funding page included a captcha.

 

Below are two posters published by the Al-Qassam Brigades requesting financial support under the slogan "Support the Resistance." Both depict the Bitcoin insignia beside a defiantly raised fist, the hashtag "Support the Resistance," a QR code, and the address of the Hamas website for using Bitcoin: alqassam.net or fund.alqassam.net.

As part of a general campaign to support the "Resistance," Al-Qassam Brigades also released an animated clip on Facebook under the hashtag "Support the Resistance." The video features an Al-Qassam Brigades fighter standing resolutely on the battlefield, intrepidly facing enemy battleships, warplanes and tanks which target him with rockets and missiles. Despite being hit many times in the chest, the fighter remains standing with his arm defiantly raised in the symbol of the Resistance. The clip concludes with the following words: "We will never bend. Nothing will defeat us."

March 26, 2019 – In Video, Syria-Based Jihadi Preacher Al-Muhaysini Urges Support For Hamas Via Bitcoin Donations – And Includes Al-Qassam Brigades Video Of How To Send Secure Donations Via Bitcoin

Syria-based Saudi exile jihadi preacher 'Abdallah Al-Muhaysini released a two-part video on his Telegram channel on March 26, 2019. In it, he called passionately upon Muslims to support the "Islamic Resistance in Palestine" (i.e., Hamas) by donating funds using bitcoin. He stated: "Your brothers in Gaza, your brothers the mujahideen in the Islamic resistance, have launched a campaign today to support the Resistance and its steadfastness, via what is called 'bitcoin currency.' This currency is a good, secure method by which to deliver money to mujahideen, so that you [too], Oh businessman, can engage in jihad for the sake of Allah... Oh Muslim ummah, if you cannot donate via bitcoin and are not capable of financial donations, the least you can do is spread this blessed campaign to support the steadfastness of the Resistance... Do not be parsimonious in this regard. Be a donor! May Allah be with you, our brothers in Gaza..." The second part of the video features the clip distributed by Al-Qassam Brigades on Telegram with thorough instructions as to how to donate using bitcoin.

In a post accompanying the video, Al-Muhaysini included the following disclaimer: "This video is not a fatwa permitting the use of bitcoin currency. I am still hesitant about its ruling, just as our great sheikhs are. However, we made an exception here to use it in order to overcome the security risks of donating to jihad and the like... This is the ruling of our sheikh, the erudite Al-Didu [Mauritanian cleric Muhammad Al-Hasan Walad Al-Didu, a Muslim Brotherhood scholar and International Union of Muslim Scholars member], may Allah preserve him."

It is significant that Al-Muhaysini, a Salafi-jihadi, is encouraging support for Hamas, which is generally considered by Salafi-jihadis to lack commitment to Islamic principles.

These efforts quickly bore fruit for Hamas, with supporters living in the West sending funds to them using cryptocurrency. On May 22, 2019, Jonathan Xie, an American form New Jersey was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to Hamas, making false statements, and making a threat against Israel supporters. He had donated in bitcoin and by MoneyGram to Al-Qassam Brigades. For more on Xie's case, see the Appendix of this report.

May 2019 – New Jersey Man Arrested And Charged With Attempts To Provide Material Support To Hamas Donated In Bitcoin Via Al-Qassam Website

On May 22, 2019, an American from New Jersey was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to Hamas, making false statements, and making a threat against Israel supporters. He had donated in bitcoin and by MoneyGram to Al-Qassam Brigades.


Jonathan Xie.

Authorities believed that Jonathan Xie, 20, of Basking Ridge, NJ, had intended to attack a May 31 pro-Israel event in New York's Times Square. Xie had said in an Instagram Live video: "I'm gonna go to the [expletive] pro-Israel march and I'm going to shoot everybody." In subsequent Instagram posts, Xie had stated: "I want to shoot the pro-Israel demonstrators... you can get a gun and shoot your way through or use a vehicle and ram people... all you need is a gun or vehicle to go on a rampage... I do not care if security forces come after me, they will have to put a bullet in my head to stop me."

Xie had said that he would go to Gaza and join Hamas "if I could find a way." He also stated online, "Donald Trump, he should be hung from the gallows!" and, after visiting Trump Tower in New York in April, wrote on his Instagram account that he wanted to bomb it. He added, "I forgot to visit the israeli embassy in NYC... i want to bomb this place along with trump tower."

In December 2018, Xie had sent $100 to an individual in Gaza he believed to be a member of the Al-Qassam Brigades. In April 2019, he sent a link to a website for the Al-Qassam Brigades to an individual with whom he was interacting online, who was an FBI employee operating undercover. Xie described the website as a "Hamas" website and then sent screenshots of the website to the undercover employee and demonstrated how to use a new feature on the website that allows donations to be sent via bitcoin. He also joked that using bitcoin was "too confusing lol." He later used the feature himself to donate. Xie also repeatedly declared that he did not "give a shit" if he was arrested or killed.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said, "Homegrown violent extremists like Xie are a serious threat to national security. The actions that he took and planned to take made that threat both clear and present." (For more of this email exchange– see Appendix I).

June 3, 2019 – Al-Qassam Brigades: We'll Send "Hundreds Of Millions" Of Text Messages In Multiple Languages Explaining How To Send Funds Via Bitcoin

Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubaida announced on June 3, 2019 that the group would send out "hundreds of millions" of text messages to millions of people across the Arab and Muslim world, as well as to the "free people of the world," explaining how to send funds to "the resistance and jihad." A poster on the Brigades Telegram channel said that the messages would be "accurate and trusted, aimed at simplifying the process of sending money to support resistance and jihad," and in multiple languages; they would call on the recipients to share and promote them.

The poster also expressed the Brigades' gratitude to Muslims "who have been and are responding to our call to support the resistance with digital currency in our open battle against the number one enemy of the ummah."

Using the hashtag "support the resistance," the group shared multiple links to pages on its website along with a previously released video describing secure methods for sending donations to the organization using Bitcoin in languages including English, French, Russian, Turkish, Indonesian, and Malaysian.

July 11, 2019 – Al-Muhaysini Posts Video Detailing Spending Of Nearly $200,000 Collected Via "Multiple Secure Methods" In Fundraising Campaign

Abdullah Al-Muhaysini posted a video on July 11, 2019 detailing how donations totaling $180,000 had been spent. The funds were collected via "multiple secure methods" during a fundraising campaign that ran May 20-June 16, 2019. The video lists rebel military factions that benefited from the campaign, such as the National Liberation Front (NLF), Jaysh Al-Izza, and the Free Syrian Army.

APPENDIX: Jonathan Xie Email Exchange – New Jersey Man Arrested And Charged With Attempts To Provide Material Support To Hamas Donated In Bitcoin Via Al-Qassam Website

The following email exchange is taken from the indictment. On November 16, 2018, Xie wrote to the Al-Qassam Brigades English-language contact email asking whether non-Arabs could join and how else he could support the group. The criminal complaint does not make clear whether he received a response to this initial email, but on December 16, 2018, he wrote again to the same address asking how to donate: ''Salam alaikum [Peace be unto you]! I saw at the bottom of your website that you can make a donation to the Al-Qassam Brigades by contacting this email address. As a Muslim living in the US, I would like to support the Palestinian resistance as much as possible. Thanks for taking your time to read and hopefully there's a way I can donate! "

A reply came the next day, thanking Xie for supporting the "Palestinian resistance" and asking how much he intended to donate: ''Waalikum As-Salam [And unto you peace] our dear brother, We hope that you are doing well Insha'Allah [Allah willing], and thanks for your support to Palestinian resistance. Regarding the donations; would you tell us the amount you intend to send so that we can send you the proper way to send it. May Allah Bless You.'' Xie replied: ''I plan on donating $100(USD), if there are any fees necessary to send the money, I do not mind paying for those as well. May Allah Bless You as well. Ameen.''

The next email informed Xie that he could donate to the Al-Qassam Brigades "through one of the following programs: express money – money gram – western union."

On December 20, 2018, Xie replied that he was ready to make the donation via MoneyGram, but was unsure how to select the relevant territory: ''Hello Brother, I am using Money Gram from my computer to send you the funds. Attached is an image of the reciever [sic] information, I just want to make sure the info I typed in is correct before I send it. In the 'Receiver country' box, I cannot find a, selection specifically for Gaza, only 'Palestinian Territory, Occupied', does this still work?'' He also included an image from the MoneyGram website.

The respondent assured Xie that Al-Qassam Brigades would be able to receive the donation if he selected "Palestinian Territory, Occupied."

On December 20, 2018, Xie successfully completed the transaction and sent images of the transaction details, writing: ''Okay, the transaction went through. In the 2nd picture, the Reference Number is 37337500 when you go to recieve [sic] the cash pickup. I hope everything works out fine inshallah [Allah willing]. Let me know if you were able to recieve [sic] it, brother.''

Two days later, on December 22, 2018, Xie received an email confirming that the donation had been received and thanking him: ''Dear brother, We write to tell you that we received your donation May Allah bless with his bounty of barakah [blessings] for yourself and your family''

Xie then thanked the respondent, and expressed wishes that "the Palestinian resistance will be able to overthrow the apartheid Israeli regime" along with a photo of a Hamas flag.

Xie also made a number of statements detailing his support for Hamas via Instagram, according to the criminal complaint. On January 19, 2019, Xie wrote on his Instagram account: ''I'm going to donate more money to Hamas once I get my paycheck.'' Also on Instagram, Xie revealed his plans to join the army: "I'm joining the Army... I [sic] said I could get arrested... If they found out about the Hamas shit... I'm joining the US Army not to fight foe Jewish internets [likely "interests"] But to learn how to kill So I can use that knowledge I already got accepted Israel does that so they can kill innocent women and children Idk [I don't know] if I pass the training If I should do lone wolf That is why I have to learn military techniques from the Army To stop these people'.'

In his April 2019 interaction with the undercover FBI employee, Xie provided, as noted, specific instructions on how to donate to Hamas, and again confirmed his own donations. The images below include excerpts from the interaction as well as images Xie sent to the FBI employee (Individual #4). Xie explicitly mentions bitcoin in response to a question about the risk of getting caught, saying: ''if you click the left button, it brings you to their donation page where you can donate via bitcoin"

When Individual #4 expressed confusion over the process, Xie sent pictures with instructions on how to donate: ''Oh! I found how to translate the donation page to English... ok ill send you pics."

* Steven Stalinsky, PhD, is Executive Director of MEMRI.

 

[1] Wsj.com/world/middle-east/militants-behind-israel-attack-raised-millions-in-crypto-b9134b7a, October 10, 2023.

[2] Trmlabs.com/post/in-wake-of-attack-on-israel-understanding-how-hamas-uses-crypto, October 10, 2023.

[3] Twitter.com/SenWarren/status/1712132781277335844, October 11, 2023.

[4] Brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/statement-sherrod-brown-additional-action-needed-support-israel, October 11, 2023.

[5] Sherman.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/sherman-reacts-to-biden-admin-crypto-tax-reporting-rule-proposals, August 29, 2023.

[6] Punchbowl.news/wp-content/uploads/2023.10.17-Letter-to-Treasury-and-White-House-re-Hamas-crypto-security.pdf, October 17, 2023.

[7] Thehill.com/policy/technology/4262515-elizabeth-warren-roger-marshall-sean-casten-bipartisan-crypto-financing-hamas-attacks-israel, October 18, 2023.

[8] Forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/10/17/hamas-struggles-to-earn-crypto-but-raises-money-in-other-ways/?sh=1e3e46237998, October 17, 2023.

[9] Thehill.com/homenews/administration/4262227-biden-administration-sanctions-secret-hamas-investment, October 18, 2023.

[10] Home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1816, October 18, 2023.

[11] Telegram.me/gazaalannet/16265, June 9, 2021.

[12] fund@alqassam.ps.

[13] See MEMRI JTTM report, Hamas Continues To Fundraise Via Cryptocurrency , June 3, 2021.

[14] Facebook.com/GNNANOW.

[15] Instagram.com/gnnanow.

[16] Twitter.com/GNNANOW.

[17] Telegram.me/gazaalannet.

[18] Gazaalan.net.

[19] Forbes.com/sites/digital-assets/2023/10/17/hamas-struggles-to-earn-crypto-but-raises-money-in-other-ways/?sh=24f222de7998, October 17, 2023.

[21] Telegram.me/gazaalannet, October 9, 2023.

[22] Telegram.me/gazaalannet, October 9, 2023.

[23] Binance.com/en/feed/post/1300281, October 10, 2023.

[24] Telegram.me/gazaalannet, October 9, 2023.

[25] Telegram.me/gazaalannet, October 11, 2023.

[27] The blockchain address is: 0x175d44451403edf28469df03a9280c1197adb92c.

[28] The balance is 0.005573965627089492 ETH.

[29] T.me/gazaalanpa/1372.

[30] Telegram.me/gazaalannet, October 11, 2023.

[31] The following link automatically downloads a court filing uploaded to the website of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The relevant passage can be found on page 33. Cftc.gov/media/8351/%20enfbinancecomplaint032723/download.

[32] Nbctf.mod.gov.il/he/PropertyPerceptions/Documents/%D7%A6%D7%AA%201-23.pdf, accessed May 10, 2023; Coingeek.com/more-binance-accounts-linked-to-terror-groups-ai-hates-cz, May 8, 2023.

[35] Reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-seized-binance-crypto-accounts-thwart-islamic-state-document-shows-2023-05-04, May 4, 2023.

[36] Nbctf.mod.gov.il/he/PropertyPerceptions/Documents/%D7%A6%D7%AA%201-23.pdf

[37] Justice.gov/opa/pr/globAl-disruption-three-terror-finance-cyber-enabled-campaigns, August 13, 2020.

[38] Outlookindia.com/business/Al-qaeda-isis-hamas-using-cryptos-for-terror-activities-says-chainalysis-report-news- 182792, February 17, 2022.

[39] Techround.co.uk/news/israeli-police-hamas-crypto-wallets, October 11, 2023.

[40] https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/12/31/israel-seizes-nis-2-6m-in-cryptocurrency-from-hamas, December 31, 2021.

[41] Israelhayom.com/2021/07/09/idf-to-target-hamas-cryptocurrency-accounts, September 7, 2021.

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