WASHINGTON - Less than a week after threatening to cut aid to the Palestinians if they fail to pursue peace with Israel, the United States is sanctioning the political leader of Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip.
The State Department Tuesday announced it has placed Ismail Haniyeh, president of the Hamas political bureau, on its terrorist list as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
The U.S. already lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, but the State Department said Haniyeh maintains close ties with the group’s military wing and has reportedly been involved in attacks on Israeli citizens.
Also designated is Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian-backed group that operates mainly out of Gaza and the West Bank. Officials say Harakat al-Sabireen has planned and carried out attacks against Israel and has fired rockets at Israeli targets.
Two Egyptian groups, Liwa al-Thawra, and Harakat Sawa’d Misr, were also added to the terrorist list. Both had previously been associated with the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“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 terrorist designations appear to support two of U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy priorities — support for Israel and countering Iranian influence across the Middle East.
During meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Trump threatened to withhold as much as $85 million slated to go to the Palestinians through the United Nations.
“We give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Trump said after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump reiterated he would seek to curtail aid to any country that failed to stand by the U.S., including those that voted against the U.S. in the United Nations General Assembly after he moved to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“American taxpayers generously send those same countries billions of dollars in aid every year,” he said. “I am asking Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests and only go to America’s friends, not enemies.”