EU imposes sanctions on six involved in financing Hamas

Move is part of a new dedicated sanctions regime against Palestinian militant group

Members of the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement. AFP
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The EU on Friday imposed sanctions against six people involved in financing Hamas, as part of efforts to restrict the Palestinian militant group's access to funds in the wake of its unprecedented attacks against Israel on October 7.

Among those listed are three currency exchangers based in Lebanon, including Nabil Khaled Halil Chouman, 70, who owns a company named Shuman for Currency Exchange in Beirut, and his son and colleague, Khaled Chouman, 36.

The announcement is part of a new dedicated sanctions regime targeting "those who support, facilitate or enable violent actions by Hamas and the Palestinian Jihad", said the EU.

It comes "in view of the gravity of the recent attacks against Israel and the need to fight against violent actions that threaten peace and international security", it added.

With this decision, the bloc showed that it is "ready to take decisive steps to react to the brutality shown by terrorists on October 7," said the bloc's top diplomat Josep Borrell in a press release.

A third Lebanese man, Riad Ali Khamis, 56, was listed due to his involvement in laundering and transferring money for Hamas, notably via Shuman for Currency Exchange.

"The company has been used to launder and transfer money to Hamas, including from Iran," said the EU.

Two Hamas financiers are also described as managing companies as part of the group's investments. They are Sudanese national Abdelbasit Hamza, 68 and an Algeria-based Jordanian national, Aiman Al Duwaik, 61.

The EU described Mr Al Duwaik as "CEO and shareholder of the Algerian company Sidar, the CEO of Turkish company Anda Turk, a shareholder of Sudan-based Al Rowad Real Estate Development, and a member of the board of directors of construction company Uzmanlar Co."

Palestinian citizen and senior Hamas operative Musa Dudin, 51, was also listed, said the EU.

EU sanctions are accompanied by a freezing of assets and a travel ban.

The bloc in the past weeks listed a handful of Hamas leaders, including military leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Marwan Issa as part of its previous sanctions framework.

Hamas was first listed as a terror organisation by the bloc in 2003 but the October attacks that killed about 1,140 Israelis brought renewed western attention to its finance networks around the globe.

More than 24,700 Palestinians have died in Israel's retaliatory operation in Gaza.

Hamas receives a large part of its funding from the "Arab upper-middle class all over the world. That's the reality," said a high-ranking EU official.

The official was speaking ahead of a meeting of European Foreign Affairs Ministers on Monday in Brussels. The ministers were scheduled to be joined by their counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine and Israel.

The last in-person attendance at such a meeting of a high-ranking Israeli government member dates back to a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2017.

In a tightly choreographed series of meetings, ministers will exchange views on what a post-war Gaza would look like.

EU sources they would keep pushing for a two-state solution, which is also supported by the US, despite Mr Netanyahu's statement on Thursday rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen and his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al Maliki are not scheduled to be meeting in person.

"It's a complex ballet," said the EU official.

The meetings will be chaired by the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell. In a speech at the University of Valladolid in Spain, he said that Israel had financed the creation of Hamas in a bid to weaken the Palestinian Authority.

"Yes, Hamas was financed by the government of Israel in an attempt to weaken the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah," Mr Borrell without elaborating further on such alleged financing.

Mr Netanyahu has denied accusations by his opponents in Israel and some global media that his government spent years actively boosting Hamas in Gaza.

Updated: January 20, 2024, 6:20 AM