US State Department blacklisted on Wednesday the freely-elected Palestinian leader Ismail Haniyeh, the current top political leader of the Islamic Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas.
In a press release, the US State Department stated that Haniyeh “has close links with Hamas' military wing” and “has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”
Haniyeh's placement on the US “terror list” means that there will be a travel ban on him, and that any US-based financial assets he may have will be frozen. Any US citizen or company is banned from doing business with him.
The US State Department accused Hamas of being involved in attacks that resulted in the killing of 17 Americans since the group's founding in 1987.
Originally, these were dual Israel-US citizens and they were killed either during their military service, which is attacking, killing or abducting Palestinians, displacing them or demolishing their homes and stealing their properties.
Meanwhile, Hamas, the mainstream Palestinian factions which won overwhelming free elections in 2006, along with all the Palestinians, has the right to resist the occupation. This is guaranteed by all international and religious laws.
‘Will not deter us’
Hamas rejected the US decision to place its political chief on its global “terror list,” and called the move a “dangerous development.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, immediately after the US announcement, Hamas said the US State Department's decision “is a violation of international law, which has given the Palestinian people a right to defend themselves against [Israeli] occupation, and to choose their leaders.
“This decision demonstrates the full American bias in favour of the Israeli occupation, and provides an official cover for Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.”
Hamas, the Palestinian political movement that governs the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, said it calls on the US administration to “reverse” this decision and to stop its “hostile policies.”
It also said: “This will not deter us from carrying out our duties towards our people and defending them, and liberating our lands and holy sites.”
'Icon of resistance'
Haniya, 55, was elected to be the group's political chief in May 2017, replacing Khaled Mesh’al. Born in a refugee camp in Gaza, the leader has long been seen as pragmatic and flexible in his attitudes towards solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Gaza Strip, Ghazi Hamad, close friend to Hamas leadership, said the US' decision is part of a wider campaign against Palestinians since President Donald Trump came into office in January 2017- one year ago.
“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.
“I think Donald Trump is mentally ill. Since he became president … the US administration has been trying to impose its misguided policies on the Middle East.”
Hamad added that Haniya is an “icon of resistance” and that is “something he and we are all proud of.”
Trump has made a series of decisions in recent months that have increased tensions in the region, including an official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the start of the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
On January 17, the US government decided to cut more than half of its planned funding to the UN aid agency for Palestine refugees – an institution that has been the lifeline to more than five million registered Palestinian refugees for over 70 years.