Published: 2018-01-31 20:27
Last Updated: 2018-02-01 17:14
The United States government has classified Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh as a “specially designated terrorist,” the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
Haniyeh replaced Khaled Meshaal as the group’s senior political leader in May 2017.
Ambassador Nathan A. Sales, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, told The Jerusalem Post that the US has become the first country outside Israel to take such a step.
“Ismail Haniyeh has been involved in Hamas’ campaign of terrorism against Israel for years and even decades. The United States is not fooled by any attempt by Hamas to rebrand itself. We know it for what it is, a terror organization committed to the destruction of the State of Israel,” Sales said.
Hamas has also been accused of being involved in attacks that have resulted in the killing of 17 Americans since its founding in 1987.
A link to the full statement was posted on Twitter by the State Department Counterterrorism Bureau.
— State Dept CT Bureau (@StateDeptCT) January 31, 2018
Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Al Jazeera that the US' decision is "part of a wider campaign against Palestinians since President Donald Trump came into office in January 2017."
"It is obvious that this animosity from the US administration towards the Palestinians is unprecedented - with its unconditional support of Israel and its decision surrounding Jerusalem, and cutting its funding to the UN refugee agency [UNRWA]," said Hamad.
Hamad added that Haniyeh is an "icon of resistance" and that is "something he and we are all proud of."
Hamas is yet to release an official statement in response to the US decision, but is expected to do so later on Wednesday.
The move will raise tensions already high due to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017.