US puts Hamas chief Haniya on terror blacklist

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya delivering a speech after US President Donald Trump named Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya delivering a speech after US President Donald Trump named Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sanctions also slapped on leader, but Hamas says move will not deter group's 'resistance'

WASHINGTON • The US has put Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas' head Ismail Haniya on its terror blacklist and slapped sanctions on him - a move sure to raise tensions after Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The 55-year-old Haniya, who was named head of Hamas last May, represents the more pragmatic wing of the movement, which said the United States' move would not deter the group's "resistance".

The US State Department said in a statement that "Haniya has close links with Hamas' military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians" and "has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens".

"Hamas has been responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks," it said on Wednesday.

Mr Haniya is now on the US Treasury sanctions blacklist, which freezes any US-based assets he may have and bans any US person or company from doing business with him.

Hamas - which has controlled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade - has already been on the US terror blacklist since 1997.

The US government also slapped sanctions on Harakat al-Sabireen - a small militant group that splintered away from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, is close to Iran and operates in Gaza - and two other groups active in Egypt: Liwa al-Thawra and Hasm.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement: "These designations target key terrorist groups and leaders - including two sponsored and directed by Iran - who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel.

"Today's actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities."

In Gaza, Hamas said: "The American decision to include Haniya on the terrorist list is a failed attempt to pressure the resistance. This decision will not deter us from continuing the resistance option to expel the occupation."

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. The group receives military support from Iran.

Mr Nathan Sales, the US State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said in a speech on Wednesday that Iran "continues to support a rogues' gallery of terrorist organisations, including Hizbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others". He added that Teheran gives Palestinian militant groups "potentially up to US$100 million (S$131 million) annually".

Mr Haniya was born in Gaza's Shati refugee camp in January 1963, to parents who fled when Israel was created in 1948.

Relations between Washington and the Palestinians have been severely strained since US President Donald Trump broke with policy in December to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2018, with the headline 'US puts Hamas chief Haniya on terror blacklist'. Print Edition | Subscribe