By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Wednesday listed the head of the Palestinian movement, Hamas, as a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed sanctions on him.
Ismail Haniyeh has “close links with Hamas' military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians," the State Department said on its website.
"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."
The Treasury Department also added Haniyeh to its sanctions blacklist that freezes any U.S.-based assets he might have and bans any individual or company from engaging in business transactions with him.
Besides Haniyeh, the Treasury Department also slapped sanctions on three groups -- Harakat al-Sabireen, Arms of Egypt Movement (HASM) and Liwa Al-Thawra, or Banner of the Revolution.
"These designations target key 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," he added, making the U.S. the first country besides Israel to designate Haniyeh as a terrorist.
Haniyeh has become one of the most prominent figures in Palestine to criticize President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
According to Haniyeh, recent policy decisions by the U.S. “affirm that the U.S. administration can no longer be considered an honest broker between Palestinians and Israelis in the so-called peace process.”
Haniyeh heads Hamas’ influential Political Bureau and was elected to the post last February.
Born in 1963 in the Gaza Strip, he was exiled by Israel to southern Lebanon in 1992, along with scores of Hamas leaders, for about a year.
In 1997, Haniyeh was appointed head of the office of Hamas’ founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
He became prime minister in 2006 after Hamas swept parliamentary elections in the Gaza Strip but was sacked by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a year later after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip following bloody infighting with rival group Fatah.
Since then, he has remained Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip.