The United States on Wednesday put the head of Palestinian terror group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, on its terror blacklist and slapped sanctions on him. The 55-year-old Haniyeh was named head of Hamas in May 2017.
“Haniyeh has close links with Hamas’s military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians,” the State Department said in a statement. “He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Hamas has been responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks.”
Haniyeh 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 is sworn to destroy Israel and has controlled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, has been on the US terror blacklist since 1997.
The US government also slapped sanctions on Harakat al-Sabireen — a small Gazan terror group that splintered away from the Islamic Jihad and, like Hamas, is close to Iran — and two other groups active in Egypt: Liwa al-Thawra and HASM.
“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,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
“Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities.”
The US decision to put Haniyeh on its terror blacklist will not affect Hamas’s activities, the movement said Wednesday. “It is a failed attempt to pressure the resistance,” said a statement from the group. “This decision will not deter us from continuing the resistance option to expel the occupation.”
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Israel Katz welcomed the decision.
“I wish to congratulate the US on the rightous [sic] decision to designate Ismail Haniyeh as a global terrorist,” Katz tweeted. “This man is one of the main reasons the citizens of the Gaza strip are suffering since the terror organization Hamas took power of the Strip in 2007.”
Haniyeh replaced Khaled Mashaal, who now lives in Doha in exile, atop the Hamas movement. Unlike Mashaal, Haniyeh will remain in the Gaza Strip.
Also known as Abu Abed, Haniyeh was born in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp in January 1963 to parents who fled when Israel was created in 1948.
Hamas has frequently highlighted his modest background as a counterpoint to officials within Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, who have been accused of being corrupt and too easily compliant with Israel or the United States.
After US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, Haniyeh voiced rage over the decision, saying it “crosses every red line,” and called for a new intifada, or uprising.
“This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada,” he said.