|Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing|
By Neri Brenner, Yoav Zitun
Gaza resident Maher Abu Ghaba, 41, has been abusing his Israeli visa to transfer money to Hamas, apparently for years. Reportedly, Abu Ghaba has also been transferring iron to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, which was using the iron in the construction of tunnels and bunkers.
On Thursday, it was cleared for publication that Abu Ghaba was arrested in a joint operation of the Shin Bet and the Lachish District Police.
Abu Ghaba, who has been importing and marketing iron in the Gaza Strip, was arrested at the Erez crossing on September 6, carrying NIS 114,000 (roughly $29, 400). When questioned by the Shin Bet, he confessed to transferring money and iron to Hamas. The accumulated amount of money is estimated to have reached some $3 million.
Abu Ghaba utilized many methods in his schemes, one of which was taking money that Hamas wired to his family in Egypt for his iron business and handing it over in cash to Gazan Hamas representatives.
Ever since Morsi assumed power in Egypt, Abu Ghaba confessed, money transfer has become easier, as Hamas officials would leave to Egypt through Rafah and carry the money in suitcases back to the Strip.
3,000 tons of iron found on a ship arriving from turkey
The Shin Bet, the police, customs, and the State Prosecutor ran a joint operation last month, thwarting an attempt to smuggle some 3,000 tons of iron into the Gaza Strip. The iron, imported by Abu Ghaba, was used by Hamas to build bunkers under mosques.
The South District Attorney's Office filed an indictment in September, charging Abu Ghaba with conspiracy, support of a terror organization and funding terror. According to the indictment, Abu Ghaba imported the iron from different countries into the Ashdod Port, stored the iron in sheds in Israel and gradually transported it in trucks to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Senior NCO Motti Asor, of the Southern District Police, said that "Intelligence information led us to arrest the man carrying NIS 114,000 in cash. He claimed it was payment for iron, but later confessed under questioning to have transferred $3-4 million through his brother in Egypt and another middleman."
"By purchasing iron," Asor added, "Hamas would in fact launder money. Hamas would later use the iron to build shelters and posts to prepare for war or conflict with the IDF." According to Asor, police forces unloaded 3,000 tons of iron from a ship arriving from Turkey in October, amounting to some 42 tons of iron that police intercepted and which will be confiscated.
The Shin Bet and police expressed their concern that goods, such as iron for construction, imported through Israeli ports, may make their way to the Hamas military wing.
"Abu Ghaba's arrest," an official said, "indicates that Hamas has been abusing Israel's policy of granting visas to merchants, by which traders would go into Israel on a daily basis," pointing out that Hamas can in fact smuggle goods and money into the Strip for military purposes.
According to the official, Hamas builds bunkers under mosques, presumably assuming that Israel will avoid attacking places of worship in case of war.