Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ Gaza leader, admitted Thursday that his government is having trouble paying its bills. “It’s really difficult to provide” the $25 million it takes every month to fund ministries and pay employees, he said.
Hamas employs 34,000 people – roughly one out of every 22 adults living in Gaza – most as members of its armed forces, which includes both security services and police.
Despite the difficulties, Haniyeh said, Hamas has no intention of accepting funding that the European Union and the United States has offered to provide if the group renounces terrorism and accepts signed treaties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The European and American offers are “political blackmail,” he accused.
Hamas’ financial difficulties follow reports that senior leaders in the terrorist group have used tax money to buy property. Last year, Gaza businessmen told the Christian Science Monitor that Hamas was using money generated by high taxes on smuggled goods to buy “prime tracts of land and buildings across Gaza, particularly along the enclave’s main boulevards.”
In February, the Kafiyeh network, a PA-based news outlet, reported that Haniyeh had purchased property worth $4 million in Gaza and intends to invest more money in building.
Hamas has also spent money buying property in Jerusalem, in an attempt to secure a foothold in Israel’s capital city, and on giving out flowers and chocolates to 300,000 Gaza families as part of a campaign to improve its image.
One of its main expenses has been the purchase of more advanced weapons for use against Israel. A senior IDF officer reported in November that the group has successfully smuggled many new weapons, including advanced missiles capable of reaching central Israel.