Israel imposes sanctions on alleged Hamas financial network

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 20 companies and individuals operating across the Middle East that it says are involved in funding the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The sanctions are directed against what the Ministry of Defense described as an international network operating “under the guise of legitimate businesses” in Sudan, Turkey, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States announced sanctions against many of the same entities in May. Israel and the United States say they are part of a Hamas-run financial network with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

The Islamic militant group has carried out dozens of deadly attacks against Israelis over the years, and it seized control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority 15 years ago. Israel and Western countries consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

“We will continue to thwart Hamas’ attempts to channel funds intended to build up the terror organization’s forces,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since the Hamas takeover, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from rearming. But the group continued to improve its military capabilities – including the range of its rockets – through four devastating wars with Israel.

Palestinians and human rights groups see the blockade as a form of collective punishment of the more than 2 million Palestinian residents of Gaza.

Even as it attempts to sanction Hamas, Israel has also moved to ease the blockade of Gaza over the past year in exchange for calm. Those understandings with Hamas appear to have figured into the group’s decision to stay out of three days of heavy fighting between Israel and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group earlier this month.

Barry F. Howard