The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions Wednesday targeting individuals that contribute to Hamas operations and financing. In total, OFAC announced sanctions on ten individuals in Gaza, Sudan, Turkey, Algeria and Qatar for being members of Hamas, contributing to Hamas operations or facilitating financing for Hamas. The sanctions also target a money transfer company in Gaza.
Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, which has previously issued sanctions targeting the group’s supporters. The organization has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, taking power soon after Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory in 2005 and removed their troops and settlers. Since then, there have been a series of violent conflicts between Hamas and Israel, including in 2021.
The sanctions come soon after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and amid Israel’s siege of Gaza. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained that the goal was to disrupt Hamas’s funding and operations to prevent civilian killings:
The United States is taking swift and decisive action to target Hamas’s financiers and facilitators following its brutal and unconscionable massacre of Israeli civilians, including children. The US Treasury has a long history of effectively disrupting terror finance and we will not hesitate to use our tools against Hamas. We will continue to take all steps necessary to deny Hamas terrorists the ability to raise and use funds to carry out atrocities and terrorize the people of Israel.
Sanctioned individuals will have their US assets frozen, and anyone who does business with them could be subject to additional sanctions.
The US has stood with Israel in the wake of Hamas’s attack. President Biden visited the country this week to express support and urge humanitarian caution, saying:
I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone. You are not alone. As long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone. … But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.
Other Western leaders have generally expressed support for Israel, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paying her own visit to the country. In response to European Parliament concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza, von der Leyen said, “Only if we acknowledge Israel’s pain, and its right to defend itself, will we have the credibility to say that Israel should react as a democracy, in line with international humanitarian law. And that it is crucial to protect civilian lives, even and especially in the middle of a war.”
Not everyone in the international community has sided with Israel; many leaders have both condemned Hamas and urged Israeli restraint, UN Secretary-General António Guterres among them. Guterres condemned Hamas’s attack and demanded they release their hostages. The Secretary-General also called on Israel to protect Palestinian civilians and restore access to food, water, and humanitarian aid. He stressed:
Even wars have rules. International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected and upheld; civilians must be protected and also never used as shields. And all hostages in Gaza must be released immediately. It is imperative that all parties – and those with influence over them – do everything possible to achieve these steps.
The Arab and Muslim world has widely expressed outrage at the treatment of Palestinians, civilian deaths and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza from Israel’s total siege. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has described Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack as collective punishment and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation said Israel is responsible for “heinous war crimes against the Palestinian people and humanity as at large.” Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic talks with Israel and major protests have broken out across the region.
International calls for a ceasefire have grown, with Guterres calling for a humanitarian pause to hostilities and Brazil introducing a resolution to the UN Security Council. The US vetoed the resolution.
JURIST will continue to inform its readers as this crisis unfolds, including dispatches and interviews with people directly affected.