Palestinian Civilians Are Using Bitcoin More Than Terrorists

The Takeaway:

  • Experts say Hamas is now using bitcoin for cross-border fundraising at an unprecedented rate. Still, even the largest estimates of terror financing in the region are apparently dwarfed by civilian bitcoin usage in the Gaza Strip, local experts tell CoinDesk.
  • General awareness in Palestine of bitcoin and ethereum has increased since 2018.
  • Freelance payments and remittances are reportedly the leading use-cases for bitcoin transactions in the Palestinian territories.

Terrorists aren’t the only Palestinians using bitcoin. Sources in Gaza told CoinDesk bitcoin is now more popular than ever among civilians, too.

“There are some offices that now do $5 million to $6 million a month,” freelance web developer and Gaza-based bitcoiner Ismael Al-Safadi told CoinDesk about local money changers. “I’ve seen an office send 100 BTC in one [transaction]. … There are also a lot of small clients. They send $200 or $1,000.”

Related: Bitcoin Risks Slide to $9.5K After Sudden $700 Price Drop

The $5 million figure dwarves the “tens of thousands of dollars” in illicit transactions reported earlier this week by the New York Times.

Last year, CoinDesk reported that one such cryptocurrency dealer served roughly 50 clients a month purchasing or liquidating an average of $500 each. He has since relocated to Europe, having earned enough to emigrate.

Yet two sources with knowledge of the matter estimated there are up to 20 bitcoin dealers now operating in Gaza. Since PayPal and other online services exclude the Palestinian territories, this is one of the only ways for freelancers to easily receive international payments.

For example, Al-Safadi takes more than 70 percent of his monthly earnings in bitcoin. Based on the social media groups he participates in, Al-Safadi estimates there are around 10,000 occasional bitcoin users in Gaza. Indeed, an anonymous source in Gaza who taught seminars about cryptocurrency to roughly 300 Palestinians since 2017, told CoinDesk just…

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