Tension is still high in the Gaza Strip amid Egyptian-led mediation efforts to defuse a military confrontation between Hamas and Israel. As of the time of this writing, Egyptian intelligence officers continue to act as peacemakers between Gaza and Israel.
On March 25 and 26, tension escalated between Hamas and Israel and sparked a round of violence after a rocket was launched from Gaza into Tel Aviv on March 25, wounding seven Israelis. No Palestinian faction claimed responsibility for it, yet Israeli aircraft bombed several sites and facilities in the Gaza Strip. Israel targeted several Hamas military and security positions across the Gaza Strip, injuring seven Palestinians. Meanwhile, Palestinian factions fired rockets and shells at Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
On March 25, Israel bombed the offices of the insurance and investment company Al-Multazem in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. The Israeli army tweeted that the three-story building belongs to Hamas and that the movement has offices inside.
Al-Multazem identifies itself as a Palestinian public joint stock company established in 2008 with five branches in the Gaza Strip. It offers insurance services and seeks to alleviate the risks facing the Gaza residents and improve the national economy. Israeli reports claim the company works in technology investment, including cyber and information technology.
A source in the company told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The company includes 400 Palestinian shareholders from inside and outside the Gaza Strip. It has a capital of $10 million with 50 employees. It is not affiliated with any Palestinian organization. Over the past 10 years, it was able to secure 50% of the insurance market in Gaza by winning insurance tenders for ministries in Gaza and local municipalities.”
The source added, “We deal with all institutions and companies in Gaza without any restrictions or reservations. We offer car insurance and worker's compensation insurance, among other kinds, and we finance projects to build houses and buy apartments in addition to supporting university students with interest-free loans.”
Al-Multazem is one of the economic institutions established in Gaza after Hamas took control of it in the summer of 2007, alongside the Islamic National Bank established in 2009, the Palestine Production Bank in 2013 and Dhamin Insurance and Investment in 2014. All these companies are critical to Gaza’s economy, which has been gradually declining since the Israeli blockade was imposed.
Israeli aircraft also bombed the bank's headquarters in the wars of 2012 and 2014. Al-Barasi Exchange in Gaza was bombed in 2010, 2007 and 2008. In June of 2018, outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman designated the Hamed Exchange in Gaza as a terrorist organization, claiming it channelled funding for Hamas.
Essam Aldalis, deputy head of Hamas’ political department, told Al-Monitor, “The recent Israeli aggression on Gaza had four specific goals. The first is a political one; it destroyed the headquarters of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. The second is military, bombing sites belonging to Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. The third had security objectives in terms of targeting the headquarters of the internal security apparatus and the fourth is an economic one, of which Al-Multazem was the target.”
Aldalis added, “[Al-Multazem] is a public joint stock company in which Hamas has not a single dollar — only the Palestinian people’s money. But Israel thought that the financial siege on Hamas is achieving its objectives, so it carried on … cutting off its funding sources by targeting Gaza’s economic companies, believing this would affect Hamas, even if it has nothing to do with those companies.”
Israeli researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Ehud Yaari wrote in a study published in 2011 that Al-Multazem along with commercial companies, residential projects, hotels, shopping centers, spas, agricultural spaces and fish farms are part of Hamas’ economic empire in Gaza.
Mohammed Abu Jiyab, editor-in-chief of Al-Eqtesadia newspaper in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Al-Multazem is Hamas’ only investment in the insurance sector in Gaza — even if the movement has not officially declared its ties to it — because companies registered with the Palestinian Authority are not allowed to deal with government institutions in Gaza, being illegal from the PA’s point of view. Al-Multazem is the most investment-oriented business for the Hamas-run government in Gaza and the most popular among Gazans in insurance deals, but Israel does not miss an opportunity to damage Hamas' financial and economic assets.”
Striking Al-Multazem conveys the clear message that all of Gaza's economic facilities are on the Israeli radar and that Gaza is unsafe for investment. Israel strives to mobilize the international community against Hamas by forcing Palestinian banks to refuse to receive or transfer money from the movement. It also prosecutes exchange companies accused of working with Hamas, drains the resources of Hamas-affiliated charitable institutions such as El-Salah Islamic Association and the Islamic Society and directly targets its affiliated banking and financial companies.
Hussam al-Dajani, a political science professor at Al-Ummah University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas' economic capabilities, including Al-Multazem — despite Hamas denying all ties to it — are an integral part of the economy of the Gaza Strip. Targeting the movement’s financial institutions is a direct hit to the general economic structure of Gaza, which leads to further deterioration of the Palestinians’ living conditions. This will strengthen the radical current in Hamas. Israel believes that hitting its economic structure will pressure the movement and force it to make political concessions, but there are few signs of this plan succeeding.”The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Palestine Post 24