US adds Hamas leader to terror blacklist, imposes sanctions

US adds Hamas leader to terror blacklist, imposes sanctions
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The United States on Wednesday added the head of Hamas's political arm to its terrorist list in a move likely to raise already-soaring tensions in the region.

The State Department announced that Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of Hamas's political bureau, had been put on the U.S. blacklist, citing the official's close ties with Hamas's military wing and his reported involvement in terrorist attacks against Israelis.

The designation cuts Haniyeh off from the American financial system, freezing any assets he may have in the U.S. and barring him from doing business from U.S.-based entities.

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At the same time, the U.S. also added three groups to its list terrorist blacklist, including the Iranian-backed Harakat al-Sabireen, and two Egyptian groups, Liwa al-Thawra and Harakat Sawa’d Misr. 

Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has been on Washington's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997. Iran also provides backing for the group.

"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," Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Ex-Trump campaign adviser on Tillerson remarks: Trump will 'pick a fight with anybody' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE said in a statement.

"Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities," he added.

The move came amid rising tensions between the U.S. and the Palestinians, which boiled over in December after President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, told Reuters on Wednesday that the U.S. terrorist designation of Haniyeh was "worthless."

"We reject and condemn the decision and we see it as a reflection of the domination by a gang of Zionists of the American decision," he said.