V iewed from one of Istanbul’s glitziest restaurants, the Bosphorus looks sublime. The venue is a favoured haunt of mandarins, businessmen, minor celebrities—and Hamas’s financiers. A man on whom America has imposed sanctions for funding the Islamist group describes his various board seats. “It’s ridiculous,” he says, of America’s accusation, but eventually admits, “now, if you’re asking what our employees do with their own money, why would I know?”
Hamas has three sources of power: its physical force inside Gaza, the reach of its ideas and its income. Since Hamas’s attacks on October 7th, Israel has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians in Gaza in seeking to wreck the first. But Israel’s declared goal of destroying Hamas for good requires its financial base to be dismantled, too. Very little of this sits in Gaza at all. Instead, it is overseas in friendly countries. Furnished with money-launderers, mining companies and much else, Hamas’s financial empire is reckoned to bring in more than $1bn a year. Having been painstakingly crafted to avoid Western sanctions, it may be out of reach for Israel and its allies.
Hamas’s income pays for everything from schoolteachers’ salaries to missiles. Around $360m each year comes from import taxes on goods brought into Gaza from the West Bank or Egypt. This is the easiest source of cash for Israel to strangle. After withdrawing from the strip in 2005, it strictly limited the movement of goods and people across the border. Now it stops even most basic necessities from getting in.