The State Department officials has Ismail Haniya, the head of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, on the official U.S. terrorist blacklist in a move likely to further inflame tensions between Washington and the Arab world.
The 55-year old Hamas chief, who was named leader of the group in 2017, has been seen as a moderating influence within the organization, which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist outfit.
By being placed on the State Department’s terror blacklist, any and all U.S. assets belonging to Mr. Haniya are frozen and he is barred from any business interactions with U.S. companies. Hamas as been a formally recognized terrorist organization by the U.S. since 1997.
“Haniya has close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians,” the State Department said in a statement Wednesday.
“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,” department officials added, Agence France-Presse reported.
Washington also added Harakat al-Sabireen, a splinter faction of Palestinian Islamic Jihad with close ties to Tehran, and the Egyptian-based Liwa al-Thawra and the Arms of Egypt Movement — or Hasm Movement — to the U.S. terror list on Wednesday.
The decision to place Mr. Haniya on the list “is a failed attempt to pressure the [Palestinian] resistance” into accepting Washington’s decision on Jerusalem or U.S.-led efforts to pressure Palestinians back to the negotiation table, Hamas officials said in a statement
“This decision will not deter us from continuing the resistance option to expel the occupation,” they added.
The move comes a day after the Trump White House lashed out at members of the Arab world and international community who oppose Washington’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Mr. Haniya was one of the Hamas leaders to call for a new “intifada” or armed uprising against Israel and its allies in the West, after the Trump White House unveiled its plans regarding Jerusalem.
“This Zionist policy supported by the U.S. cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada,” he said at the time.
The last such revolt, known as the Al-Aqsa intifada, began in 2000 after then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a personal visit to the Temple Mount, also known as Haram esh-Sharif to Muslims, sparking over four years of vicious fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.
During his first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Mr. Trump issued a thinly veiled threat to nations who have voiced their opposition to America’s efforts in Jerusalem.
“In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion dollars in aid,” he said. “That is why, tonight, I’m asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests — and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.”
Last week, Mr. Trump vowed to block future financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless Palestinians agree to peace talks with Israel.
“We give them hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland.
American-led efforts to officially recognize Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel are destined to fail, and Washington’s push into Jerusalem will only exacerbate tensions between the U.S and the region, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s General Delegation to the U.S., said last week.
“Jerusalem is not going anywhere. It is not united. It will never be united,” the ambassador said during a speech at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.