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Gaza faces $120mn in bank heists as cash shortage worsens

Armed Gangs Loot $120mn from Banks in War-Ravaged Gaza, Fueling Cash Crunch

Title: Armed Gangs Loot $120mn from Banks in War-Ravaged Gaza, Fueling Concerns of Insurgency

In the war-torn region of northern Gaza, armed gangs, including those backed by Hamas, have managed to plunder at least $120 million from banks in just the past two months, according to UN estimates. This staggering amount accounts for a third of the cash stored in vaults in the area, with an additional $240 million still sealed in bank vaults, some encased in concrete to prevent further looting.

The thefts have raised concerns among Israeli officials that the funds could potentially fuel Hamas’s insurgency as the militant group gains control of scarce banknotes in the closed wartime economy of the besieged enclave. The conflict and Israeli restrictions on the movement of cash and armored cars have led to a severe cash crunch, with residents having to pay a fee in advance to even access a cash machine.

The most brazen bank robberies occurred in mid-April, with armed groups making off with millions of dollars from the Bank of Palestine branches in Rimal and downtown Gaza City. These incidents, along with smaller-scale thefts that had already taken place, have left the region grappling with a cash shortage as inflation rises and essential supplies become harder to obtain.

Despite the significant amount stolen, the Bank of Palestine remains stable, with most of its deposits and business located in the West Bank. However, the stolen funds in the hands of the “highest authority” in Gaza are likely to further escalate tensions and potentially fuel an insurgency against the Israeli military.

The situation in Gaza has been further exacerbated by the blockade on fresh Israeli shekel notes by the Israeli military, forcing Palestinians to use alternative currencies like Jordanian dinars and US dollars. Wealthy individuals have resorted to sending millions of dollars to an Egyptian tour operator in exchange for crisp new bills to facilitate their escape from the region.

Efforts to address the cash shortage through electronic payments have been hindered by the lack of electricity and internet connectivity. As Gazans struggle to access cash and essential supplies, the impact of the ongoing conflict and looting on the region’s economy and stability remains a pressing concern.


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