US names Hamas leader as terrorist

The US State Department officially named Ismail Haniyeh, who has been Hamas' political chief since May 2017, a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" (SDGT).

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – On Wednesday, the US State Department officially named Ismail Haniyeh, who has been Hamas’ political chief since May 2017, a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT).

Already in 1997, under former President Bill Clinton, the US designated Hamas, itself, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In 2015, the Obama administration named two other Hamas figures, Yahya Sinwar and Muhammed Deif, as SDGTs.

Despite its terrorist associations, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since 2006, when it won the Palestinian legislative elections.

The State Department explained in a written statement that the 55-year-old Haniyeh has “close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

Haniyeh has been “involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens,” the statement charged, while Hamas has been responsible for killing 17 Americans in terrorist attacks, it said.

The designation means that any assets Haniyeh may have in the US are frozen, while “US persons”—which include permanent residents, as well as citizens—are prohibited from “any transactions” with the Hamas leader.

Hamas officials denounced the US decision, affirming that it “will not prevent our people and its leaders from continuing their legitimate struggle.”

The US move follows other steps by the Trump administration that signal a tougher position on Palestinian issues. They include President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement that the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.

Haniyeh responded to that announcement with a call for a “comprehensive, popular intifadah” to confront Israel and the US.

The US also announced earlier in January that it was cutting by half its next scheduled contribution to the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) of $125 million.

Originally founded to assist Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war that established the state of Israel, UNRWA continues to operate 70 years later, providing humanitarian assistance and social services to residents of nearly 60 refugee camps in the areas neighboring Israel. The US has long been the most significant contributor to UNRWA.

Haniyeh, himself, is the son of refugees from the 1948 war.

The State Department’s terrorism designations also targeted three other small organizations, including Harakat al-Sabireen Nasran li Palestine (the Movement of the Patient Ones Supporting Palestine) or HESN, which is Gaza-based. Headed by a former leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), HESN is even more radical than Hamas.

The other two groups—Liwa al-Thawra (Flag of the Revolution) and Harakat Sawa’d Misr (Arms of Egypt Movement, HASM)—are Egyptian, and some of the leadership in both groups was previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas and HESN both receive funding and other support from Iran. 

Britain designated HASM as a terrorist group in December.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany