World News

U.S. sanctions Hamas bank, TV station in Gaza

Palestinian children watch a Mickey Mouse look-alike who urges children to support armed resistance against Israel, at Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza May 13, 2007. . REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Thursday against two firms in Gaza -- Islamic National Bank and Al-Aqsa Television -- for their ties to the ruling Hamas movement.

The Treasury said the sanctions prohibit Americans from transactions with the entities and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Treasury lists Hamas, which rules Gaza, as a “specially designated global terrorist” organization.

It said the sanctions were imposed against Islamic National Bank, opened by Hamas in April 2009, for providing financial services to Hamas members and employees, including members of its military wing.

The Treasury said the bank lacks a legal license from the Palestinian Monetary Authority and operates outside the legitimate financial system. In May 2009, the Treasury said Hamas’ finance office in Gaza moved 1.1 million euros into the Islamic National Bank and used the funds to pay salaries of Hamas military wing members who held accounts at the bank.

The Treasury said Al-Aqsa Television station is financed and controlled by Hamas and serves as a primary Hamas media outlet that airs programs “designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood.”

It said Hamas leadership raised initial capital for the station in 2006 and late last year allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for its operating budget.

Hamas pioneered rocket strikes from Gaza on Israeli territory and backs armed struggle against Israel.

“Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu