The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four individuals on Thursday for transferring tens of millions of dollars from Iran to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, or what the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas calls its “military wing.” The designation highlights the significant financial ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hamas, and the role of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in facilitating those ties.
The four individuals sanctioned by Treasury are Muhammad Sarur, Kamal Abedlrahman Aref Awad, Fawaz Mahmud Ali Nasser, and Muhammad Al-Ayy. Sarur, based in Beirut, handled all money transfers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force to Hamas since 2014, working with Hezbollah. Sarur also worked for Hezbollah’s Bayt al-Mal financial center from 2011 to 2016. Bayt al-Mal was sanctioned by Treasury in 2006.
Awad, Nasser, and al-Ayy “provide financial, material, technological support, financial or other services to or in support of, Hamas,” according to the Treasury statement. Awad and Sarur coordinated with an unnamed Gaza-based Hamas financial facilitator to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas. Awad also helped distribute funds to Hamas prisoners and the families of Palestinian “martyrs” in the West Bank. Nasser and al-Ayy coordinated to transfer Iranian funds via Hezbollah to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed Palestinian terror group.
Iran has a long history of supporting Hamas. In 1992, Tehran began providing Hamas with between $20 million and $50 million annually. Iran also played a significant role in sponsoring the terrorist campaign of the second Intifada (2000-2005). However, the relationship has had its speedbumps. Iran ceased nearly all funding to the group in 2012, citing Hamas’ refusal to support Bashar al-Assad’s war against Sunni rebels Syria. Reportedly, Iran did not fully resume funding until 2017.
According to recent reports, Tehran has pledged to increase funding for Hamas to $30 million per month in exchange for intelligence related to Israel’s missile capabilities. This announcement came after Hamas sent a high-profile delegation to Iran last month. If the U.S. Treasury Department’s estimate is correct that the Islamic Republic has provided Hamas with $200 million over the past four years, the latest financial commitment marks a significant increase.
The Treasury Department should continue to sanction individuals responsible for Hamas’ belligerent actions. The terrorist group also receives funding and other support from Qatar and Turkey, yet they have escaped sanctions to date. Marwan Issa, the de facto commander of Hamas’ Qassam Brigades, has also not been sanctioned.
David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Jacob Zack is an intern. They both contribute to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). Follow David on Twitter @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.