The United States has concluded that about half of
the estimated $50 million budget for Hamas comes from Gulf Cooperation
U.S. officials told a House subcommittee that most of Hamas' foreign sources of funding stem from
Saudi Arabia. They said Hamas has raised more than $50 million a
year, including funds obtained from criminal activities in the United
Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser, who heads the U.S. effort to end financing to Islamic
insurgency groups, testified on Wednesday to the House Financial Services
subcommittee. The focus of the hearing was the campaign by Washington to end
funding to Hamas, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Some sources estimate that as much as half of Hamas' income is derived
from money raised in the Persian Gulf, including the kingdom of Saudi
Arabia," Aufhauser said,
"notwithstanding a May 2002 decree by Crown Prince Abdullah that ceased
official Saudi support for the group."
The United States has encountered difficulties in persuading countries
to seize Hamas assets and halt funding to the Palestinian group, Aufhauser
said. He said the effort has not been well received in GCC states that fund
Hamas's political activities.
"No economic sanctions program exists at the UN for Hamas," Aufhauser
said. "Countries in Europe and the Persian Gulf Ñ two principal areas that
supply funds to Hamas Ñ have been slow to support action against the entire
organization, if at all. The rest of
the world, particularly Europe Ñ until recently Ñ and countries in the
Persian Gulf view the political charitable wing of Hamas differently from
its so called military wing."
About $24.7 million in assets linked to Hamas has been frozen, Aufhauser
said. Sixteen of the 321 individuals and groups cited on the U.S. list of
suspected terrorist financiers over the last two years have been linked to
FBI assistant director for counterterrorism John Pistole told the House
subcommittee that Hamas' annual budget is believed to be at least $50
million. Pistole, who based his estimate on U.S. intelligence reports, said
Hamas has responded to the shutdown of U.S.-based charities by entering
criminal activities in the United States. He said information on
Hamas-related criminal activities in the United States helped foil four
attacks planned in an unspecified country, believed to be Israel.
"Some of the suggested criminal activity include, but not limited to,
drug trafficking, credit card fraud, counterfeit products, fraudulent
documents, cigarette tax fraud and stolen infant formula," Pistole said.
Officials cited the European Union decision to classify the political
wing of Hamas as a terrorist entity. But they said this did not guarantee
that EU states would freeze the assets of Hamas-aligned charities. The EU,
they said, has been concerned that the shutting down of these charities
would damage social services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Even as we try to shut off the flow of funds to Hamas, it is important
to remember that a significant portion of this money has gone to provide
extensive basic services to the Palestinian population Ñ services the
Palestinian Authority does not yet have the resources to step in and
provide," Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs
Anthony Wayne said. "This is a concern that the U.S. shares and is working
with our Quartet partners and others to address."