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Source: The Hill

Jan 22, 2024

US sanctions target funding streams between Iran and its allies in Gaza, Iraq


The Biden administration on Monday announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s funding for Hamas and Iranian-backed militias elsewhere in the Middle East, aimed at strangling funding sources for the proxy groups while fighting rages in the region.

The United States, along with the United Kingdom and Australia, announced sanctions against money changers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Turkey for facilitating the transfer of tens of millions of dollars between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another U.S.-designated terrorist group based in Gaza. 

It’s the fifth round of U.S. sanctions targeting Hamas since its terrorist attack against Israel on Oct. 7. 

Among those sanctioned on Monday include the Gaza-based moneychanger Zuhair Shamlakh and three of his family members for facilitating the transfer of tens of millions of dollars between Iran, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The money, traded in cryptocurrency and Chinese yuan, was used to fund and support recruitment and weapons purchases in the West Bank and Gaza, the Treasury said. 

In a separate announcement, the Biden administration said it is also imposing sanctions on an Iraqi airline, Fly Baghdad, its CEO and three other individuals for providing assistance to the IRGC and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that have attacked U.S. forces, positions and allies in the region. 

“Iran and its proxies have sought to abuse regional economies and use seemingly legitimate businesses as cover for funding and facilitating their attacks,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

“The United States will continue to disrupt Iran’s illicit activities aimed at undermining the stability of the region.”

As a result of the sanctions, any property or interests in the U.S. held by those sanctioned is blocked and Americans are generally prohibited from engaging financially with the blacklisted individuals and entities. Foreign entities or persons may also incur penalties on their ability to conduct in the U.S. if they violate the sanctions.

The sanctions come amid increased military action in the Middle East, though the U.S. and Iran appear intent on avoiding a full-fledged war.

While Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is entering its fourth month, the Israeli Defense Forces are also trading fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon and seeking to contain violence in the West Bank, a combination of terrorist threats and attacks by far-right Israeli settlers against Palestinians. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. is pushing back against attacks from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria against American forces and allies, and striking the Houthis in Yemen, an ally of Iran, over their attacks against international commercial shipping in the Red Sea. 

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