by Elham Makdoum

It is not only in the suburbs and refugee camps that populate the cramped Palestinian lands that Israeli intelligence services struggle against Hamas. For years, in fact, Israeli 007s and Palestinian crypto-warriors have been confronting each other in that place invisible to the eyes but tangible to investors, speculators, criminals and terrorists, which is the cryptoverse. And it is precisely of the cryptoverse that it is necessary to write, if one is to understand how (and where) Hamas found the funds (and weapons) to declare total war on Israel.

Jihad in bitcoin

It has been since 2019 that Hamas has been present in cryptomarkets to magnetize money for its cause, mainly by soliciting donations from its followers, mining, and investing, and accurately quantifying the accumulated figures is impossible. Between 2019 and 2023, according to Elliptic, Hamas and its twin, the Movement for Islamic Jihad in Palestine, would have raked in the equivalent of more than one hundred million dollars in crypto. Most of this figure, which is surely much higher, was raised between the post-coup of May 2021 and the eve of what the Hamas-Jihad Palestine duo called Operation Al-Aqsa.

The Mossad has tried to make life impossible for Hamas by all means, confiscating wallet after wallet, cooperating with U.S. monitoring authorities and co-opting platforms in the fight, most notably Binance - which in October alone seized more than a hundred wallets smelling of Palestinian jihadism -, but the outcome has been the creation of a great matryoshka that paradoxically has played to Israel's detriment. For Hamas's crypto division has resorted to premodernity to circumvent the meshes of surveillance, pursuing an archeofuturistic reimagining of hawala, an ancient money transfer system in vogue in the Arab world that is a guarantee of speed and anonymity, and expanding its activities from Western-based platforms to murkier Russian exchanges such as Garantex, to creating its own, one having been spotted in Gaza.

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Cryptos saved Hamas's life. After the brief but intense confrontation with Israel in 2021, which had left Hamas' arsenals half-empty, it was in the cryptoverse that Palestinian jihadists found the money and weapons they needed to raise their heads again. Donations, scams, crypto-robberies, mining and investments allowed Hamas to rebuild its arsenal. The cryptos ended up in the wallets of the lords of the illegal darknet markets that populate the hidden web, mainly the Chinese, North Koreans and Russians, who flooded Hamas warehouses with weapons of all kinds - from rifles to shoulder-fired missiles. Israel and Hamas's was the second war fought through the cryptoverse in a year, following the one between Russia and Ukraine, and it is certain that it will not be the last. Cryptos are here to disrupt not only traditional finance, but also wars and international politics.

Expert in crypto-intelligence, blockchain analytics and cryptocurrency geopolitics. She collaborates with various publications. In 2023 she was a speaker at Blockchain Beach, one of the most important Italian events on cryptocurrencies, blockchain and metaverse.