US sanctions Lebanese, Omani financiers over alleged Hezbollah links

US sanctions Lebanese, Omani financiers over alleged Hezbollah links
The US treasury has targeted a Lebanese bank over alleged Hezbollah financing.
3 min read
30 August, 2019
The US treasury has targeted individuals or banks in Oman and Lebanon [Getty]
The US treasury sanctioned banks and individuals in Oman and Lebanon on Thursday over alleged links to Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have fought wars against Israel.

Measures were taken against the Jammal Trust Bank in Lebanon, which was accused of acting as a key financial wing for Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah.

Individuals in Oman were also targeted by te US government for allegedly acting as middlemen to funnel cash from Iran's Quds Force to Hamas in Gaza.

The US Treasury said on Twitter it was targeting "terror group Hizballah's Lebanon-based bank of choice, Jammal Trust Bank, for knowingly providing support to the group via Hizballah's Executive Council and Iran's Martyrs Foundation, which funnels money to the families of suicide bombers".

It added that it was targeting "facilitators funneling tens of millions of dollars from Iran’s Qods Force to HAMAS for terrorist attacks. This Administration will not falter to hold HAMAS & its Iranian leaders accountable for their violence" in the tweet.

The US Treasury Department said Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries were being sanctioned "for brazenly enabling Hezbollah's financial activities", Sigal Mandelker, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

This included sending payments to families of suicide bombers.

Mandelker said that Oman-based financiers "funneled tens of millions of dollars... to Hamas for terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip".

The sanctions mean that the banks and individuals can have no links with US citizens or institutions.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon voiced "regret" over the US move. It said that all funds deposited with Jammal Trust Bank were safe and stressing the ability of the country's central bank to remedy the situation if need be.

Senior US administration officials, speaking on condition of not being identified, told reporters that the two actions were above all meant to send a signal.

The bid to squeeze the Lebanese bank that it "should be seen as a warning shot that Hezbollah and its Iranian puppet masters should keep their hands off Lebanese financial institutions" one official said.

They described this as a strategy to "choke off every last avenue of funding".

Although Jammal is a relatively small bank in Lebanon, it is the "bank of choice" for Hezbollah, another official said.

A third senior official called the sanctions a reflection of the "gloves off approach" by President Donald Trump against Hezbollah.

"We will continue to target individuals and entities involved in financing and providing support to Hezbollah while working closely with the Central Bank of Lebanon and other Lebanese institutions which work to preserve the integrity and stability of Lebanon's banking system," the State Department said.

Agencies contributed to this story.