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France to host meeting on tackling Hamas financing, online activities

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France to host meeting on tackling Hamas financing, online activities
Reuters
John Irish
December 12, 2023

By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - Officials from more than 20 countries including Israel but no Arab states will convene in Paris on Wednesday to define a strategy on how to curb financing of Hamas and its activities online, three diplomats said.

France has been pushing with Germany and Italy for the European Union to create a specific sanctions regime against the Palestinian Islamist group after its deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

French diplomats have said they want a broader strategy encompassing as many countries as possible, to damage the group's ability to finance itself and disseminate propaganda on social media networks.

The one-day conference of foreign ministry political directors will begin with a presentation by Israel on the "state of Hamas' threat" before turning to sessions on curbing financing, according to an agenda seen by Reuters.

Presentations will be made by Israel, France, the United States - which will outline current sanctions on Hamas - and an independent organisation that focuses on terrorism financing.

Hamas uses a global financing network to funnel support from charities and friendly nations, passing cash through Gaza tunnels or using cryptocurrencies to bypass international sanctions, according to experts and officials.

"It's odd that there won't be any Arab countries," said one diplomat, whose country has been invited. Two other diplomats also confirmed the absence of Arab countries and Turkey.

SECRET NETWORK

Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the U.S., has established a secret network of companies managing $500 million of investments in companies from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Treasury has said.

Israel, whose forces have been pounding Gaza for weeks to try to eliminate Hamas in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack, has long accused Iran's clerical rulers of stoking violence by supplying arms to Hamas.

Tehran says it gives moral and financial support to the group. Qatar has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas-run Gaza since 2014, officials say.

The final session of Wednesday's conference focuses on fighting "terrorist contents online" and how to mobilise tools to counter Hamas social media activity.

"The idea is to use the systems that were put in place against Daesh," said one European diplomat, referring to Islamic State. "But there are real problems on deciding what is hate speech when both sides are putting out false narratives and accusing each other of everything."

(Reporting by John Irish, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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