US Targets Bank for Funneling Money to Hamas

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday on a Lebanese bank it calls “Hezbollah’s bank of choice” and on people the administration says funneled tens of millions of dollars to Hamas through Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

While the sanctions fall on the bank and people accused of working with Hezbollah and Hamas, the administration calls them the latest in a series of actions aimed at Iran, a primary funder of the groups. A senior administration official said the administration has seen signs that previous sanctions have cut back on Iran’s funding of terrorist groups, a decline it expects to hasten in the coming months.  

The first set of sanctions announced Thursday will fall on Jammal Trust Bank, which has 22 branches in Lebanon and three offices worldwide. The administration says the bank has a “long-standing relationship with Hezbollah,” dating back to the mid-2000s, and has provided financial services to members of Hezbollah’s executive council and associated terrorist groups, even after learning of their affiliations.

This includes the Martyrs Foundation, an Iranian-based group sanctioned by the United States in 2007, which, among other things, gives money to the families of suicide bombers. The administration says the sanctions announced Thursday should prevent the bank from working with Hezbollah going forward.

Another senior administration official noted that, while Jammal Trust Bank is a “relatively minor institution,” the sanctions serve a larger purpose beyond freezing financial assets. 

“The designation of Jammal should therefore be seen as a warning shot that Hezbollah and its Iranian puppet masters should keep their hands off the Lebanese financial system or be prepared to face the consequences,” the second official said. 

The administration’s action deems the bank as a specially designated global terrorist, and does the same to three of the bank’s insurance subsidiaries.

The second set of sanctions target four people it says funneled more tens of millions of dollars between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hamas, a terrorist organization the United States designated in 1997. The sanctions block all U.S. property the people targeted with the sanctions control and bars them from U.S. financial transactions.

“This administration will not falter to hold Hamas and its Iranian leaders accountable for their violence,” Sigal Mandelker, the Department of Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “Treasury will continue to disrupt terrorist networks by targeting those who generate funds to carry out the Iranian regime’s violent agenda.”

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