The US State Department announced Tuesday that it was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hamas deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri and two top Hezbollah officials.
In an announcement at the State Department in Washington, US Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Mike Evanoff said Washington was “offering rewards of up to 5 million [dollars] each for information leading to the identification or location of Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, and Lebanese Hezbollah leaders Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb, and Haytham Ali Tabatabai.”
The offer is part of the department’s Rewards for Justice program, which has paid out over $150 million to over 100 informants since it was founded in 1984.
Arouri, Evanoff said, is “one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing.” He is “currently living freely in Lebanon, where he is reportedly working with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.”
Arouri has “raised funds for and directed Hamas military operations in [the] West Bank and has been linked to several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings,” the US official said. “In 2014, al-Arouri asserted Hamas’s responsibility for the June 12th, 2014 terrorist kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in the West Bank, including dual US-Israeli citizen Naftali Fraenkel.”
The other two teens were Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaer.
Evanoff noted that “the US Department of Treasury designated al-Arouri a specially designated global terrorist in September 2015.”
He then turned to the two Hezbollah officials joining Arouri on the list of individuals sought by the US government.
“Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb is a close adviser of Hassan Nasrallah,” Hezbollah’s leader, who has “served as the group’s chief military liaison [to] Palestinian terrorist organizations. Harb has commanded and supervised Lebanese Hezbollah military operations in the Palestinian territories and several countries throughout [the] Middle East. The US Department of Treasury designated Harb as a specially designated global terrorist in August of 2013,” Evanoff said.
Harb is believed to have overseen Hezbollah-linked terror attacks in the West Bank, and has been accused by Saudi Arabia of engaging in terrorism and helping to lead Hezbollah’s operations in Yemen in support of the Houthi rebels there.
Haytham Ali Tabatabai, meanwhile, was described by Evanoff as “a key Lebanese Hezbollah military leader who commanded Hezbollah special forces in both Syria and Yemen. The Department of State designated Tabatabai as a specially designated global terrorist in October of 2016.”
The American official promised any information passed on via the Rewards for Justice website or email address, or to US embassies or consulates worldwide, would be kept confidential. He also suggested they might be helped
Evanoff’s statements to the press at the State Department came just hours after Ambassador Nathan Sales, the Trump administration’s counterterrorism coordinator, announced that Hassan Nasrallah’s son Jawad Nasrallah and the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group al-Mujahidin Brigades were to be classified “specially designated global terrorists,” freezing their assets and imposing other sanctions on them and those who work for or are in contact with them.
At the press conference, Sales said the administration was also “maintaining Hezbollah’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization, which was up for a mandatory five-year review. Likewise, the Treasury Department is designating a number of Hizballah-related individuals as SDGTs [specially designated global terrorists]: Shibl al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Muhammad Farhat, and Adnan Kawtharani.”
Sales added: “All told, the Trump administration has already designated more than 40 Hezbollah-related individuals and entities this year alone, with a total of 160 to date.”
Both Hezbollah and Hamas were recognized by the Clinton administration as foreign terrorist organizations in October 1997, and as SDGTs by the Bush administration in October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.