By Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON, Nov 14 (Reuters) – The United States and Britain imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Tuesday targeting Hamas as they seek to cut off funding for the militant Palestinian group following its deadly attack on Israel last month.
The United States announced its third round of sanctions since the attack, targeting key Hamas officials and the mechanisms through which Iran provides support to Hamas and its ally Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), another militant group.
Britain added sanctions on four Hamas senior leaders and two financiers, the Foreign Office said in a statement, including the group’s political leader in Gaza and the commander of its military arm.
“The United States will continue to work with our partners, including the U.K., to deny Hamas the ability to raise and use funds to carry out its atrocities,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
“Hamas’s actions have caused immense suffering and shown that terrorism does not occur in isolation. Together with our partners we are decisively moving to degrade Hamas’s financial infrastructure, cut them off from outside funding, and block the new funding channels they seek to finance their heinous acts.”
Israel vowed to wipe out Hamas after the militant group’s fighters burst across the fence around the Gaza enclave on Oct. 7 and rampaged through Israeli towns, killing civilians. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and around 240 were dragged back to Gaza as hostages in the deadliest day of its 75-year history.
Medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 11,000 people are confirmed dead from Israeli strikes, around 40% of them children, and countless others trapped under rubble. Around two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been made homeless, unable to escape the crowded territory where food, fuel, fresh water and medical supplies are running out.
The United States on Tuesday also issued guidance on providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people despite sanctions on Hamas, clarifying that U.S. measures “do not stand in the way of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.”
Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Britain and others.
While Americans are generally barred from engaging in transactions with Hamas and PIJ, neither Gaza or the West Bank are subject to an embargo or jurisdiction-based sanctions, the guidance said.
It clarified that transactions in support of certain nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities are authorized, such as providing lifesaving medical assistance to civilians in Gaza at a hospital staffed or occupied by Hamas. Transactions related to official business of certain international organizations, such as the United Nations, are also authorized, the guidance said.
Since the Oct. 7 attack, Washington has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Hamas. It has targeted the group’s investment portfolio and issued an alert to financial institutions on countering Hamas financing while senior officials have discussed the group’s access to funds on trips abroad.
Washington’s action on Tuesday specifically targeted Mahmoud Khaled Zahhar, a senior member and co-founder of Hamas, the PIJ’s representative to Iran and the Damascus-based deputy secretary general of PIJ and leader of its militant wing.
Lebanon-based money exchange company Nabil Chouman & Co was also targeted, along with its owner and founder, who was also targeted by Britain. The Treasury said Hamas uses the company to transfer money from Iran to Gaza and accused it of having transferred tens of millions of dollars to the group.
Washington’s move freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those who engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.