- Estimates suggest some of Hamas’s leaders have a net worth in the billions
- Israel and other critics accuse the group of spending money on luxuries instead of helping the people of Gaza
Conditions in the Gaza Strip have long been dire, with the territory referred to by some as the world’s ‘largest open air prison’.
Even before the outbreak of war in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israel, half of Palestinians living in Gaza depended on food supplied by the United Nations.
Those conditions have deteriorated over the last month, as Israel continues its bombardment of the 140-square-mile Strip in its mission to destroy the Hamas terror group.
But as the territory’s 2.3million people suffer, several hundred millionaires are registered in the coastal Strip.
And while the majority of citizens in the densely populated territory – which is a quarter of the size of Greater London – languish in poverty, a select few live in marble-floored mansions and luxury hotels.
According to the Embassy of Israel in the US, three of Hamas’s most senior leaders – Mousa Abu Marzouk, Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh – have net worths of more than $3billion each. The embassy also claims that Hamas’s annual turnover is $1billion and suggests the group is second only to ISIS as the world’s richest terror group.
Hamas is best known for its military wing, with reports that 40,000 terrorists wear the group’s badge, thousands of whom took part in the October 7 attack. They are armed to the teeth with rifles and rockets, and have vowed to destroy Israel.
But the group is also the de facto authority that governs over Gaza, running organisations including its healthcare system, social services and the media.
It took power in 2006, with its political leader Ismail Haniyeh assuming the role of prime minister that year. It remains in control of the territory and – having called no elections since – is essentially an authoritarian regime.
In the years since taking control, the group’s leaders have profited off the misery of the Gazan people.
In a video, the Embassy of Israel in the US accused the group of using its funds for building tunnels and arming its fighters rather than building vital infrastructure such as wells and water treatment.
A study from 2021 suggested that about one-quarter of disease spread in the territory is caused by water pollution, and 12 per cent of deaths of young children are due to infections related to contaminated water.
‘While Gazans are deprived of basic needs, Hamas uses aid and funds to line their own pockets,’ the embassy said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Israel has also said Hamas continues to attack across the border without building civilian bomb shelters, knowing the Israeli military will retaliate.
Instead, Israel says Hamas’s leadership hoards its wealth, uses Palestinians as human shields and allows the population it claims to govern go hungry.
According to German news outlet Bild, there are four Hamas officials who have grown particularly wealthy over the years – the trio of Abu Marzouk, Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh – as well as a fourth named Younis Qafisheh.
Haniyeh is believed to be the richest of the three – despite once vowing to live only on olive oil and za’atar spice.
A 61-year-old father of 13 children, Haniyeh has been in hiding since 2019, living the high-life in luxury hotels in Qatar and Turkey.
German tabloid Bild reports that he often jets between Tehran, Istanbul, Moscow and Cairo in his private jet to meet leaders in friendly nations, and two of his sons Maaz and Abdel Salam are often seen in Instagram posts lounging on hotel beds in Istanbul or Doha.
Maaz, who is a very wealthy real estate mogul in his own right, is known on the Gaza Strip as the ‘father of houses’. When he’s in Turkey, he is often seen in the company of attractive women and alcohol, despite his Islamic faith.
His brother Abdel Salam, meanwhile, was disgraced after being found to be siphoning off money in his role as sports ambassador for Hamas’s ‘Shura Council’ (Politburo), Bild says.
The publication estimates his net worth to be $2.5million, while the Israeli embassy to the US suggested it was as much as $3.2billion. Another publication, i24News, wrote last month that his wealth could be as high as $5billion.
Khaled Mashal, 67, is the former head of Hamas’s political bureau.
He fled Damascus to escape the Arab Spring in Syria and, like Haniyeh, is now living in Qatar. From there, he handles real estate and financial transactions for Hamas.
When he fled Syria, Bild reports, he is said to have taken $1.5billion from Hamas’s headquarters in Damascus. Israel’s US embassy puts his net worth at $4billion.
Mousa Abu Marzouk, 72, is another Hamas high-flyer. He is considered the second in command within the group, and is a foreign minister of sorts.
After spending 14 years in the US – where he was in 1995 arrested for activities supporting terrorism and deported after two years – he moved to Jordan, then to Syria and then to Cairo in 2012.
Despite his arrest, he kept hold of his money, and today Bild reported his fortune is estimated at $2billion, while the Israeli embassy to the US puts it higher, at $3billion.
Younis Qafisheh, 67, is a fourth Hamas official highlighted by Bild for his immense wealth.
He is one of the terror group’s most important financial managers, and has been on the US sanctions list since 2022 on account of being ‘involved in directing Hamas operations and [holding] key positions in several Hamas-controlled companies, including Sudan-based Agrogate Holding and Turkey-based Trend GYO.’
Trend GYO, which is also on the US terror watch list, reported a 2022 net profit of 57.8million Turkish lira (around two million euros).
However, according to i24News, the wealth accumulated by Hamas’s very top officials is just the tip of the iceberg.
The online outlet suggests that hundreds of Hamas leaders are sitting on millions thanks to the taxation of goods brought into the territory and through international donors, mainly from Qatar.
While some estimates of Hamas’s wealth are more conservative, there is no question the group leaders have amassed huge fortunes.
In May 2022, the US Treasury Department sanctioned a Hamas finance official as well as other financial facilitators.
It said: ‘Hamas’s Investment Office, whose leadership oversees this network, held assets estimated to be worth more than $500million, including companies operating in Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates.’
And according to documents obtained by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, the group has a financial empire outside of the Gaza Strip worth nearly $750million (£600million).
But how has Hamas accumulated its wealth?
On account of it being a terror group, Hamas is cut off from assistance from the likes of the United States and the European Union that both provide support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the West Bank.
Historically, Palestinian expats and private benefactors in the Middle East provided much of the group’s funding, in addition to some Islamic charities in the West.
Israel has in the past also allowed Qatar to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the authorities in Gaza, while other foreign aid comes through the Palestinian National Authority and United Nations aid groups.
But Hamas has also been able to raise its own revenue, taxing goods that move through a sophisticated network of tunnels that avoid the Egyptian border crossing in the south, bringing in food, medicine, fuel and cash, and also arms.
Egypt also allows for the entry of some commercial goods. As of 2021, Hamas reportedly collected upwards of $12 million per month in taxes raised on Egyptian goods imported into Gaza, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
Today, Iran is one of Hamas’s biggest donors. The country – a sworn enemy of Israel – contributes funds, weapons and military training to the group.
According to CFR, it provides some $100 million per year to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups designated as terror organisations.
Turkey has also been a backer of Hamas and a critic of Israel. Though Ankara says it only supports the political wing of the group, it has also been accused of funding Hamas’s terrorist activities through aid diverted to the group’s military wing.
Despite its accumulation of wealth, however, Hamas has avoided responsibility for building infrastructure and protecting the citizens of Gaza.
In fact just last week, Abu Marzouk declared that the political bureau of the terror group is not responsible for protecting the coastal strip’s civilians amid the on-going Israeli bombardment of the territory.
‘We built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being killed in airstrikes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels,’ he said.
Passing the buck further, he added: ‘Seventy-five percent of the population of Gaza are refugees, and it is the UN’s responsibility to protect them.’
According to The times of Israel, he then went on to claim that it was Israel’s obligation to provide for the needs of Gazans under the Geneva Convention.
While every source of Hamas’s income may never be fully known, one thing is certain: the group will not be diverting its funds to help the civilians of Gaza, who with each passing day are slipping deeper and deeper into a humanitarian crisis.