US seeks to drum up Arab support to counter Hamas financing

Top US Treasury official is latest to visit Middle East as Washington launches renewed diplomatic efforts

Hamas militants take part in a rally in Gaza city in November 2016. AFP
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A top US Treasury official has urged a group of Arab nations to crack down on funding for Hamas and other terrorism-related financing as fears grow that the Israel-Gaza war could spread across the Middle East.

“Hamas’s atrocities have jeopardised regional stability and shown that terrorism does not occur in isolation. We are all impacted by terrorism and the violence it unleashes,” US Treasury undersecretary Brian E Nelson said in prepared remarks at the Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre in Riyadh on Monday.

“We cannot tolerate a world in which Hamas and other terrorist organisations’ fundraisers live and operate with impunity, abusing the financial system, to sustain their terror.”

The Treasury Department last week sanctioned 10 people linked to Hamas's financial operations while imposing additional sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile and drones programmes.

In his remarks, Mr Nelson said it would be a “disservice to the Palestinian people” not to condemn Hamas.

“From a financial standpoint, we can clearly see that Hamas has exacerbated economic hardships for decades in the Gaza Strip by diverting humanitarian assistance to support its campaign of terror, and we must publicly condemn these actions,” he said.

Mr Nelson also cautioned that other groups could cause the conflict to spill across the region.

“We are already seeing other actors launch attacks across the Middle East in Lebanon, Iraq and even in the Gulf,” he said.

President Joe Biden's administration has tried to walk the fine line of supporting Israel after the deadly Hamas attack on October 7, while at the same time trying to keep the conflict from spreading and underscoring the need to protect civilian life.

But Washington's diplomatic efforts have borne little fruit as thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

Mr Biden's trip to Jordan was derailed after hundreds of people were killed during a Gaza hospital blast, for which Hamas and Israel blame each other.

And Secretary of State Antony Blinken was publicly lectured by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during the US diplomat's whirlwind trip to the region.

Most recently, a bipartisan cohort of US senators met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top officials in Saudi Arabia to discuss humanitarian assistance and regional challenges.

Israel's blockade of Gaza has also brought on a humanitarian crisis, where civilians in the densely populated strip face water, fuel and food shortages. Meanwhile, aid is slowly being delivered to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in Egypt.

Mr Nelson co-led the TFTC's executive committee, whose members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

TFTC aims to disrupt terrorist financing networks through sharing information and participating in actions to disrupt such financing.

Mr Nelson was also expected to meet Saudi national security officials before sitting down with Qatari officials in Doha.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 4:52 PM