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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

US designates Hamas leader a global terrorist

Three groups – two with links to Iran – also blacklisted by the state department

Hamas top leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a press conference at his office in Gaza City. Mohammed Saber / EPA
Hamas top leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a press conference at his office in Gaza City. Mohammed Saber / EPA

The Trump government on Wednesday announced it had classified Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a specially designated global terrorist.

Three other groups, two of which have ties to Iran and operate in Gaza and Egypt, were also classified as terrorists by the US.

The announcement was made simultaneously by the US State Department in Washington and by Nathan A Sales, the US Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, who was speaking at a conference in Israel.

"The department of state has designated Ismail Haniyeh, Harakat Al Sabireen, Liwa Al Thawra, and Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM) as specially designated global terrorists," read the statement.

Mr Haniyeh is described in the statement as the leader and president of the political bureau of Hamas, with close links to “Hamas’s military wing". He has been "a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians”.

The state department said Mr Haniyeh had “reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens”, and it accused Hamas of being “responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks”.

It described Harakat Al Sabireen as an Iranian-backed terrorist group established in 2014 that operates in Gaza. Liwa Al Thawra had been active in Egypt since 2016, while HASM had claimed responsibility for the assassination of Egyptian National Security Agency officer Ibrahim Azzazy, it said..

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “These designations target key terrorist 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.”

Jonathan Schanzer, a former US Treasury official, told The National that Mr Haniyeh’s designation signals that the Trump government does not distinguish between Hamas’s military and political wings – a shift from Barack Obama's approach. On the designation of HASM and Liwa Al Thawra, Mr Schanzer noted that “these two groups meet criteria for terrorism” following the attacks for which they claimed responsibility last summer.

Egyptian authorities have identified HASM and Liwa Al Thawra as armed militant groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Washington’s designation of them as terrorist groups follows a similar move by the British government.

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