WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is placing four members of the radical Hamas and Hezbollah groups on a terrorism blacklist that subjects them to US sanctions.
The State Department announced Tuesday that Hezbollah spokesman Samir Kuntar along with Hamas military leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ruhi Mushtaha, and Muhammad Deif, had been added to the specially designated global terrorists list. The move will freeze any assets they may have in US jurisdictions and bans Americans from doing business with them.
Three of the four had been previously arrested by Israel for attacks on Israelis but were later released in prisoner exchanges, including the 2011 swap that led to the release by Hamas of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Kuntar spent 29 years in Israeli custody over the brutal slaying of four Israelis in a 1979 terror raid on the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, an attack in which he smashed the head of four-year-old Einat Haran with his rifle butt.
After his release in a 2008 prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, Kuntar was celebrated in Lebanon and Syria. He became the leader of a militia based in the Syrian Golan Heights and loyal to Assad, and has planned multiple attacks against IDF soldiers on the Israeli side of the border.
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Matthew Levitt and Noam Raydan, Kuntar has been at the center of Hezbollah’s efforts to “actively recruit Druze youths for terrorist attacks.”
Kuntar’s cell carried out an IED attack on April 27 during the major Druze holiday of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shuayb, angering local leadership.
Deif, 51, is known as the head of Hamas’s armed wing, and has survived several attempts on his life by Israel, reportedly leaving him limbless.
He was targeted in an August 19 IDF strike on a home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of the Gaza Strip. Deif’s wife and two children were killed in the bombing, but Deif survived, Israeli security sources confirmed several months later.
In July a commander in the military wing of Hamas was executed for allegedly giving Israel information on Deif’s whereabouts.
Deif is thought to have survived five Israeli assassination attempts. In September 2002 he emerged, wounded, from the charred remains of a vehicle that was hit by an IAF missile. In 2006, he was wounded again, reportedly losing his limbs in an IAF strike.
As head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Deif is responsible for planning and executing a long string of terror attacks that have killed dozens or even hundreds of Israelis.
In July 2015 television Channel 2 cited Arab media sources that an airstrike attributed to Israel on a car in the Syrian Golan Heights targeted Kuntar.