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Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently signed an order declaring 36 international charities illegal in Israel, on the grounds that they funnel money to Hamas.

By declaring the organizations illegal, the order opens the way for criminal proceedings or civil suits against banks that provide them with certain types of financial services. That may deter banks from doing so, which would make it harder for the charities to send Hamas money.

Defense officials expressed satisfaction with Barak's decision, which was based on information supplied by the Shin Bet Security Service, calling this Israel's most extensive effort to date to target Hamas' overseas charitable funding sources.

Also yesterday, the Israel Defense Forces raided the offices of several Islamic charities in Nablus, confiscating documents and computers and issuing closure orders to the organizations. The raid was part of a new IDF effort to target Hamas' local funding sources, as reported in yesterday's Haaretz. This effort, which began a few months ago, previously focused on Islamic charities in Hebron, Qalqilyah and Ramallah.

According to defense establishment data, Hamas received $120 million in overseas funding in 2007, much of it from the overseas network of charities targeted by Barak's new order. Some of this money was used to fund terror attacks against Israel.

The information obtained by the Shin Bet indicates that in addition to funding Hamas itself, these charities have begun raising money to aid the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli security sources say Hamas receives funding from dozens of charities worldwide. Most are located in the Gulf states or Europe, but the network also includes organizations in Canada, South Africa and the United States. The charities outlawed by Barak's latest order include organizations in South Africa, Austria and Jordan.

The sources said all these charities are loosely linked in a coalition headed by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood activist who currently resides in Qatar. Qaradawi has met several times with the Damascus-based head of Hamas' political wing, Khaled Meshal, and according to the Shin Bet, he has issued religious rulings that authorize suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Egyptian policeman killed

Also yesterday, an Egyptian policeman was killed near the Gaza-Egypt border when a predawn gunfight erupted between Palestinian and Egyptian forces. The IDF is investigating whether Israeli soldiers also were involved in the shooting.

Yesterday afternoon, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at Israel from Gaza. The shells landed in an open space between Nahal Oz and the Karni crossing, the main terminal for sending cargo into Gaza from Israel. They caused neither casualties nor property damage.

Since the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect in Gaza on June 19, Palestinians have fired several rockets and mortars at Israel.