Oct 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Treasury to launch new sanctions against Hamas this week

A woman looks at a wall of photos in Tel Aviv of hostages kidnapped and taken to Gaza by Hamas. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The Treasury Department is preparing to announce new sanctions against several Hamas leaders this week as part of the U.S. response to the militant group's attack on Israel, U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: Hamas relies on global financial networks to fund its operations, which are based out of the Gaza Strip. The sanctions aim to disrupt that flow of money.

The big picture: Hamas has been a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., the EU and other Western countries for several decades.

  • While Hamas leaders don't have assets in the U.S., the sanctions will increase pressure on some of the countries that host them, like Qatar.
  • The Treasury Department is working closely with the private sector to enforce existing sanctions and execute new ones.
  • This week's set of sanctions is likely the first batch in several rounds to come, according to a U.S. official.

Driving the news: Brian Nelson, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, explained to a Deloitte anti-money laundering conference in New York on Tuesday how his department has worked to disrupt Hamas's financing operations over the last two decades — and hinted at what Treasury plans to do in the future.

  • "Disrupting Hamas financing operations is not new to us; this has been a priority for the Treasury for decades," Nelson said, according to prepared remarks that were delivered virtually.
  • "Treasury will bring our tools to bear against Hamas financing and the overall funding of terrorism," Nelson said.

Behind the scenes: Hamas, which is backed by Iran, has been using NGOs and charities to fundraise and move money around the world for years.

  • Hamas also generates revenue from secret investment portfolios and a network of global assets estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Nelson said.
  • "Treasury has targeted, and will continue to target, these portfolios and those who service them," he added.

Between the lines: Treasury relies, in part, on cooperation from foreign governments and the private sector to help detect Hamas' suspicious financial activity.

  • Nelson was explicit that he will call on outside forensic experts to help clamp down on Hamas' fundraising.
  • "I'm sharing so much detail today because I want you to be prepared to join our effort to ensure that the U.S. and international financial systems cut off Hamas' ability to fuel their campaign of violence," he said.
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