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In order to better understand how Hamas operates, I was trying to look up how they manage their budget. It seems there's suspicion that some of the international humanitarian aid goes towards the military budget:

NBC

Experts, enemies and Western governments have questioned whether Hamas mingles the money for its military operations with money meant for civilian use. Hamas could not be reached for comment. But Hamas representatives have said previously that the group strictly separates funding for the administration of Gaza from funding for its military wing, also known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Wall Street Journal:

...were the many ways the international community—and even Israel itself—inadvertently helped Hamas fill its coffers. The Islamist group has raised tens of millions of dollars by skimming off humanitarian assistance and taxing economic activity stirred by a trade opening into its Gaza Strip stronghold, according to independent researchers and current and former Western security officials.

Is it possible to estimate how much, (if at all) of the monetary humanitarian aid was diverted towards the military budget?

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    I doubt they invite external auditors, so... there might be some estimates by Western/Israeli intelligence. Are you asking for those? Oct 29, 2023 at 18:36
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    FWTW, Hamas claims most of the weapons money is from Iran: "Last year, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al Jazeera that Iran paid $70 million to the group to support its defense plan." (in the NBC piece) That's probably just as [un]verifiable. Oct 29, 2023 at 18:42
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    And money is fungible, so if e.g. Qatar gives them $1.49 billion over 10 years for civilian projects (which Qatar publicly says they did), then Hamas doesn't have to spend that from the taxes it collects locally, but can use the latter funds for military purposes. Oct 29, 2023 at 18:45

1 Answer 1

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Yes, Hamas uses donations that are meant for civilian and humanitarian aid toward military use. We don't have the exact amounts, and we will likely never have, but there are clear evidence that it did so on a regular basis.

I want to start with what is (in my eyes) not only the most direct evidence of it but also is one of the most cynical cases. Hamas dug out water pipes donated by the EU and turned them into rockets. And made a video boasting of it.

EU funded water pipelines despite Hamas boast it could turn them into rockets, the Telegraph (behind a pay wall).

We then have, again, self published photographic evidence of them using humanitarian aid for military purposes. In this video by Ryan McBeth he analyses a photo and shows how bags that were supplied with grain from Japan as aid were turned into fortifications in a Hamas bunker.

We also had a Tweet by Unrwa that Hamas affiliated men took supplies from them, which was later deleted and denied.

Tweet by Unwra

The story reported by the NYT and WSJ (behind a pay walls). The NYT article was summarized by the National Review:

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has reportedly built up a months-long stockpile of food, fuel, and medical supplies as humanitarian resources for the Gaza Strip have dwindled, the New York Times reports.

...

However, there appear to be instances within the last several weeks of conflict where Hamas has done just that. A since-deleted statement from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) argued that Hamas looted a warehouse and stole fuel and medical supplies meant for Gazan refugees last week. The agency shortly after retracted the statement and explained that the disappearance of supplies represented merely “a movement of basic medical supplies from the UNRWA warehouse to health partners,” but did not specify which partners.

“The Hamas movement cares only about the Hamas movement,” an Egyptian analyst told the Times. “The public of Gaza mean absolutely nothing for Hamas.”

Another aspect of taking Humanitarian aid is diverting concrete and other building materials from civilian use. Hamas had 500 km of fighting infrastructure in the form of tunnels under all of the Gaza strip:

For years, the Iranian-backed militant group — which has been classified as a terrorist organization by several countries, including Canada — has been spending millions of dollars fortifying the tunnels that it claims stretch for 500 kilometres.

Cement for rebuilding Gaza diverted to terror tunnels, Times of Israel:

The Hamas terror group has been redoubling its efforts to restore the cross-border offensive tunnels that were destroyed by Israel during last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported Friday morning.

According to the reports, some of the cement and other materials being delivered to the coastal Palestinian territory, as part of an international rebuilding effort, has been diverted to the tunnels.

In case there were any doubts as to the purpose of the Hamas tunnel system, In a recent interview to RT in Arabic Mousa Abu Marzouk admitted that the tunnels are meant only for fighters and not for the defence of Gaza's citizens and that Hamas does not take the well being of and safety Gaza's citizens as their responsibility.

Many people are asking, since you have built 500 km of tunnels, why haven't you built bomb shelters, where civilians can hide during bombardments?

We have built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being targeted and killed. These tunnels are meant to protect us from the airplanes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels. Everybody knows that 75% of the people in the Gaza strip are refugees, and it's the responsibility of the UN to protect them.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Skeptics Meta, or in Skeptics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 3, 2023 at 8:15
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    I don't see the evidence in this answer backing up a lot of the claims being made? We know there are a lot of reports claiming a lot of things, so 'reports said x' isn't overly helpful. But some specific points: In the last claim, Mousa does not really seem to be saying the tunnels are not for the defence of citizens, he's just arguing the UN/Israel should be doing more. Seeing a bag that had grain being near Hamas activity and saying that's diverting humanitarian aid is a stretch. Maybe I'm missing something - Is there more direct evidence for these claims than vague inferences? Nov 15, 2023 at 11:51
  • Can you elaborate on the water pipes part? Neither the Telegraph article or Hamas claims that EU-funded water pipes were used to manufacture rockets. Those pipes "excavated from the desert" are from the abandoned Gush Katif settlements. Nov 21, 2023 at 1:09
  • @StandwithGaza, It was elaborated in previous comments, the entire infrastructure of Gush Katif, including the economic and agricultural infrastructure needed to continue the existing agricultural businesses. Instead Gazan destroyed everything. Your source itself says, they are using the existing pipes to turn them into weapons instead of reusing them and having more water infrastructures which Gaza lacks or to redirect incoming help to other areas. The video is pretty self explanatory, "We are proud that we took water pipes and turned them to terror weapon directed at civilian population".
    – SIMEL
    Nov 21, 2023 at 1:56
  • The Telegraph article puts "two and two together" so to speak. Hamas uses water pipes to build rockets and EU funds water projects in Gaza, but that doesn't mean that the EU-funded pipes are used to build rockets. Furthermore, modern water infrastructure is often made out of plastic and unsuitable for rocketry, unlike the plumbing in Gush Katif and Netzarim which stem from the 1970s. Israel razed those settlements when it left Gaza in 2005 but apparently left the plumbing intact. Nov 21, 2023 at 3:31

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