Category Archives: Middle East

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Israeli Civil Rights NGO Wants Coinbase to Close Hamas Account

Israeli Civil Rights NGO Wants Coinbase to Close Hamas Account

An Israeli civil rights NGO has threated to take Coinbase to court over a Hamas cryptocurrency account.

The official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the appeal for Bitcoin asking all the “supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using Bitcoin”.

Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center is suggesting that Hamas has set up a Coinbase account for this purpose and as such, donations to Hamas would be a violation of US federal law under the 1995 Counter-Terrorism Act. They stated in a letter to the US exchange giant:

“It has recently come to our attention that the notorious Palestinian terrorist group Hamas currently maintains an account with Coinbase, Inc. (“Coinbase”), through which it is accepting donations.”

It added that Coinbase should immediately terminate all Hamas accounts.

Bitcoin users would be quick to point out that Hamas would be free to use its own open source Bitcoin client as a wallet, should its Coinbase account be closed. As a decentralized and censorship-resistant currency, efforts to block or sanction it would be quite futile, as proven by the much-mocked attempts by the US government last November to sanction Bitcoin addresses.

The territories of Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. Both fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but Gaza has since June 2007 been governed by Hamas since 2006.

There are reportedly now 20 unaccredited exchanges helping local cryptocurrency users to get their money abroad to make investments that otherwise they would have no chance of making in the region. In Gaza, a provider of Bitcoin to Palestinians recently maintained that his clients view Bitcoin as “cheaper, safer, and quicker”, maintaining that “nothing works with Palestinian banks” and that “Bitcoin wallets are alternative banks”.

Late last year the US online payment service PayPal closed the account of the Germany-based NGO International Alliance – an organization that sympathizes with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization and supports boycotting Israel, with PayPal simply stating that “This recipient is currently unable to receive money”.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 2-8 February 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

Blockchain Companies Respond to New Legislation: In the aftermath of the new proposed crypto legislation by the government of South Africa, companies are now starting to respond to it. The paper titled Consultation Paper on Policy Proposals for Crypto Assets was proposed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) earlier this year and drew mixed reactions from most of the crypto community.

Cryptocurrency platform Luno has come forward and praised the latest initiative by the government especially the part about not placing cryptocurrencies on the Value Added Tax (VAT) list. While other crypto companies and commentators have had mixed reactions, exchanges are breathing a sigh of relief as the taxes are not as high as expected.

DR Congo

Ford and IBM are Working on Blockchain-based Ethical Mining: Car manufacturer Ford and electronics giant IBM are working to source minerals more ethically from African countries including DR Congo. Just like blood diamonds, rare earth metals that have abundant use in electronics are also blamed much for the violence and warlord-like style of governance in some African countries.

Now, attention is being paid to the history of the mined metals including the labour being used in the process and adherence to basic human rights. Ford and IBM, both require huge quantities of these rare earth metals themselves but are now looking to help themselves and other companies procure them ethically with the help of blockchain technology. Every mineral shipment is recorded on the blockchain starting from its origin, processing, all the way up to the product itself. IBM’s Hyperledger DLT will be used for this purpose.

Israel

Sirin Labs CEO Says Whitepapers are not Legally Binding: Amid allegations that he misappropriated funds, Sirin Labs founder Moshe Hogeg has said before a court that whitepapers of Initial Coin Offerings are not legally binding. He also clarified that investors in ICOs have no actual ownership stakes in the company itself.

Hogeg was being sued by a Chinese investor who claimed Hogeg deviated from the whitepaper and was therefore liable to a penalty. The company in question is STOX or STX Technologies Limited. While Hogeg hasn’t been convicted right now, the revelation could make investors more careful about participating in ICOs.

Saudi Arabia/ United Arab Emirates

Cross Border Payments being Tested between Saudi Arabia and UAE: The Saudi Arabian and Emirati central bank task forces are working to create a borderless currency between the two nations. The project is part of a seven-point cooperation plan for strengthening the mutual banking and financial channels.

The joint statement from the two countries read:

“The cross-border digital currency will be strictly targeted for banks at an experimental phase with the aim of better understanding the implications of Blockchain technology and facilitating cross-border payments. The virtual currency relies on the use of a distributed database between the central banks and the participating banks from both sides. It seeks to safeguard customer interests, set technology standards and assess cybersecurity risks. The project will also determine the impact of a central currency on monetary policies.”

So, for now, the currency will strictly be used for interbank and interdepartmental use only.

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Digital Assets and Blockchain to Be Discussed at 7th World Government Summit by UAE

UAE

The development of blockchain technology and digital assets will be discussed by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the 7th World Government Summit, reported Gulf Today on 7 February 2019.

The report claims that two closed sessions will be held by the MoF. These sessions will include the development of digital currencies and blockchain and creating an optimum economic environment around these technologies. The development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will also be discussed along with the governance of crypto assets.

Moreover, an open session will be held by the MoF, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In this session, the impact of the development bank’s investment in digital currency on the global economy will be discussed. Furthermore, a discussion on the coordination of fiscal policies will be joined by the World Bank.

It is interesting to know that in recent past the UAE has initiated a number of projects related to blockchain integration and digital assets development. In the previous month, UAE joined hands with Saudi Arabia to develop a joint cryptocurrency. This digital asset, named Aber, is expected to be used for cross-border transactions. Moreover, it will allow the stakeholders to develop an understanding of the potential of blockchain technology. However, at the initial stage, only authorized banks will be able to use this technology.

Moreover, in December 2018, reports came out that initial coin offering (ICO) regulations will be introduced by the Securities and Commodities Authority of UAE (SCA) during the first half of the ongoing year. The regulator has reportedly signed contracts with the law firms and asked them to come up with rulebooks and sandbox for ICO issuance.

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Iran Banks Launch Gold-backed Crypto “PayMon”

Iran Banks Launch Gold-backed Crypto “PayMon”

Iran banks have launched a gold-backed cryptocurrency dubbed PayMon, reports the Financial Tribune.

The report claimed that four Iranian banks including Bank Melli, Parsian Bank, Bank Mellat and Bank Pasargad have joined hands with blockchain startup Kuknos for the above-mentioned project.

Moreover, it has been reported that a billion PayMon will be issued at the first stage. These will be used to tokenize banks’ assets and properties. An over-the-counter (OTC) crypto exchange named as Iran Fara Bourse is expected to use the token.

Previously, in July 2018, reports came out claiming that Iran was looking to launch its own national cryptocurrency. Iran sees cryptocurrencies as a mean to bypass new economic sanctions imposed on it by the US government. The new cryptocurrency is expected to back and tokenize Iran’s national fiat currency, the rial. Thereby, cross-border and domestic transactions will be facilitated.

However, last week, the Central Bank of Iran stated in a draft report that it is considering to block the use of unapproved cryptocurrencies for payments.

On the other hand, lawmakers in the US have presented bills against Iran’s attempts to develop sovereign cryptocurrency. In a bill introduced by Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc), the Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act demanded an investigation into Iran’s crypto efforts.

Furthermore, in another bill, sanctions against those who provide Iran any technical or financial support to develop its cryptocurrency (digital assets) are demanded. The said bill was presented in the Senate by Sen Ted Cruz.

 

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Saudi, UAE Banks Join Cross-Border Crypto Project

Saudi, UAE Banks Join Cross-Border Crypto Project

A joint digital currency project has been joined by six commercial banks from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as reported by Saudi Arabian financial news portal Argaam.

The UAE central bank (UAECB) stated that the project would utilize cryptocurrency for facilitating transactions between the two nations. This development followed reports in December 2018 that the two countries were looking to develop blockchain-based cross border payments solutions. At the time, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and UAECB declared that both countries want to use digital assets for the cross-border transactions.

The interbank digital currency project, Aber, will now be joined by six unnamed commercial banks. The project is expected to be functional by next year.  Moreover, the report states that the feasibility of the currency’s practical applications will be decided by the UAECB and Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). The outcomes of the “proof of concept” stage will determine official issuance.

In the previous month, both countries issued a statement that they have agreed upon the development of a joint cryptocurrency in order to better understand the potential of blockchain technology. Furthermore, reports claimed that Dubai is also looking to use cryptocurrency supported by the state (pegged to the state’s fiat currency) for utilities payments.

 

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Hamas Calls for Bitcoin to Combat Israeli Freeze of Millions of Dollars in Qatari Aid

gaza, hamas

The militant arm of Hamas in Gaza has made an appeal for Bitcoin funds after a decision by Israel to temporarily freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid to Palestine.

Hamas, the de-facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine is regarded by several countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organization. Russia, Turkey, and China are among those major world powers who do not subscribe to the definition.

The official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the appeal for Bitcoin asking all lovers of the resistance and the supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using Bitcoin.

Hamas has been the voice of Gaza since taking power from the Palestinian Nationalist political party Fatah in 2007 after a military conflict, although the Gaza Strip is now blockaded by both Israel and Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid – including USD 15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants – has heightened the current tension between Gaza and Israel. Abu Obeida’s latest message hinted at the request for funds:

“The Zionist enemy is fighting the resistance by trying to cut its support by all means, but the resistance lovers in all the world are fighting these Zionist attempts and are seeking to find all possible support for the resistance.”

A recent congressional hearing in the US confirmed that in general, fiat currencies are the preferred choice of funding for terrorist activities or arms and that the success of fundraising for such groups through cryptocurrencies has been limited.

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Saudi Arabia, UAE to Test New Central Bank Crypto

Both Saudi Arabia and the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE) have announced that their central banks are to cooperate on the trial of a new cryptocurrency.

The digital currency named Aber was announced in a joint statement released by The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Central Bank of the UAE. The proof-of-concept trial will be an attempt to lower the cost of transfers using a blockchain-based settlement solution.

Apart from establishing whether a blockchain based system might be able to leverage new technology to reduce remittance costs the project will examine if the system might also be able to be utilized as an additional reserve for domestic payments.

The trial, which has been in the pipeline since last year when the banks began discussing the possibility of low-cost cross border payments, will be limited to specific banks in both countries. Both countries are hoping that a successful outcome could lead to wider use of the technology in the future.

A recent report by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) which revealed that countries around the world may be keen on creating their own digital coins may have been a starting point for the Aber, which may unite the two nations to further consider cryptocurrency’s economic viability for its future use as a central bank financial tool.

Last year, UAE-based startup Adab Solutions launched the world’s first cryptocurrency exchange that operates with full Sharia law compliance. Sharia law prohibits Muslims from lending money to anybody with the expectation of receiving interest on this amount, regarding fractional reserve lending that the majority of fiat currencies operate with as usury.

Saudi has a far less liberal approach to cryptocurrency banning all virtual currency, including Bitcoin and all other coins. Its reason being, that the Saudi government believes private ownership of cryptocurrency to be a high-risk venture as it is not controlled by the government.

 

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Iran Central Bank Puts Pressure on Bitcoin Payments

Iran Central Bank Puts Pressure on Bitcoin Payments

A new plan released today indicates that the Central Bank of Iran is to block the use of unapproved cryptocurrencies as a means of payment.

The new report entitled “Obligations and Rules Regarding Cryptocurrencies” was released by the central bank claiming that “any cryptocurrency wallets will be used only for holding and transferring cryptocurrencies and integrating any kind of services in wallets using cryptocurrencies is forbidden”.

As the description is quite vague, it is currently not clear what will constitute unapproved cryptocurrencies under the new Central Bank rules although it has been indicated that regulators are looking for all Bitcoin transactions to be settled in Iran’s national currency, the rial.

Although once this is clarified such cryptocurrencies won’t be able to be used as a mean of payment it won’t stop users holding or transferring them, providing they fall into the category of being approved. The report also targets Iranians holding cryptocurrencies, suggesting that if the bill is passed they could be restricted to holding large amounts of cryptocurrency in the same way they are restricted to fiat maximum. The current limit in Iran is EUR 10,000 outside of their normal accounts.

Local sources claim that the measures are aimed at protecting the struggling rial from more competition. In 2018, the rial lost a staggering 60% of its value due to Iran being hit by further swingeing sanctions from the US. This despite the International Atomic Energy Agency indicating that it had been complying with the restrictions to its nuclear program laid down in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran has seen P2P website Localbitcoins.com volume rocketing in times of unrest, such as during the government protests in late 2017 and then again recently after the abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal by the US.

Another indication of a tightening of the rules which surround Iran’s crypto community is the new requirement for exchanges to seek licenses before doing business, although as yet this hasn’t been enforced and has no projected launch date.

 

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Iran State-Backed Crypto Official Announcement Tomorrow

Iran State-Back Crypto Official Announcement Expected 29th January

A national cryptocurrency in Iran has been in speculation for months, but the official announcement for the launch is anticipated to finally come at the annual two-day Electronic Banking and Payment Systems conference.

The conference begins on 29 January in the nation’s capital, Tehran, with the theme this year being ”blockchain revolution”.

The primary reason Iran is speculated to be launching the cryptocurrency is to circumvent US sanctions that have the country cut off from the global financial system. Plans for the cryptocurrency were first revealed in Summer 2018 when US President Donald Trump claimed Iran was enacting “malign activities”, and the economy has only suffered further blows since then.

In November 2018, some banks were barred from using the cross-border payment system SWIFT which has left the country struggling to pay for imports or collect export payments. The Iranian cryptocurrency has been proposed firstly to establish a new national payment network, but the government most crucially believe it will put the country back in the game of international finance, this time in a blockchain-based system.

In April 2018, Iran prohibited all financial institutions from handling or facilitating cryptocurrencies under the pretense of money laundering and criminal activity concerns. However, the ban has been more associated more likely to act as a way of preventing a capital exodus from the country.

 

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Turkish Crypto Exchange Under Fire for Security, Withdrawal Issues

Turkish Crypto Exchange Under Fire for Security, Withdrawal Issues

Turkish crypto exchange Sistemkoin may have been doing wonders in terms of accumulating new business, recording USD 68 million in volume in 24 hours and over USD 10 million in Bitcoin trades alone. But according to an author at CCN, it suffers from some appalling security problems in its platform.

The author claims that there is a significant vulnerability with Sistemkoin’s support ticket system, where a port scanner called Burpsuite can be used to compromise the ticket system and lead to uncountable possible attack vectors. For instance, an attacker can tap into the support ticket system posing as one of the administrators and ask the user to verify their account or disable two-factor authentication.

The second vulnerability in the platform was with the withdrawals, where even the basic security practices are supposedly neglected and users are having a lot of problems going through the transactions.

Sistemkoin have refuted the claim, however, with its own statement published on Twitter explaining that Bitcoin wallet server upgrades were what caused the suspension of service. The exchange slammed the “anonymity of the claim” as evidence that the accusation was a defamatory action.

🇬🇧Public Announcement

Claims about the ticket system and withdrawals do not reflect the truth. pic.twitter.com/QqShqBBj4g

— SistemKoin (@SistemKoin) January 20, 2019

 

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