Israel Seizes 23 Tons of Chocolate Intended to Bankroll Hamas
Hamas is increasingly taking control of imports to the Gaza Strip, including food.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Israeli security officials seized 23 tons of chocolate on Monday that they said were destined for Hamas.
Israeli Tax Authorities working together with IDF intelligence and the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counterterror Financing, intercepted the delivery at the Nitzana border crossing.
Israeli officials said the chocolate was being brought from Egypt by Gaza importers working as fronts for Hamas. The two Gaza companies, the al-Mutahidun Currency Exchange and Arab al-Sin, are both owned by Zahir Younes Shmalach, a moneychanger known for supporting Hamas.
Hebrew media reports said IDF intelligence learned earlier this year that Shmalach has been helping Iran funnel millions of dollars to Hamas through his companies, prompting Israel to designate the two businesses as terror organizations.
Because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza and sanctions, Hamas is increasingly taking control of imports to the Strip, including food, to resell. The terror group is reported to have an extensive network for seizing and reselling food imports.
Hamas has been pinched financially since an 11-day confrontation with Israel in May. Gaza terror groups fired more than 3,440 rockets and missiles at Israel, prompting Israeli air strikes on Hamas positions. Since the crisis, Israel has not allowed Qatar to transfer funds to to Gaza. Hamas has threatened to renew rocket fire if the money isn’t transferred.
Israel insists that Gaza’s reconstruction after the 11-day conflict in May be conditioned on Hamas releasing two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers.
Avraham Mengistu, of Ashkelon, crossed into the Strip in 2014; the next year, Hisham al-Sayed also managed to enter Gaza. Both are reportedly mentally unstable. Hamas also holds the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in Gaza in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge.
The Gaza terror groups oppose Israel’s linkage between receiving funds and the release of Israeli hostages.
Palestinian Authority banks are also balking at the transfer of Qatari funds amid concerns they could be liable for funding and supporting terror.
Israel and Egypt blockaded Gaza to prevent weapons-smuggling after Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007.
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