Hamas to U.S.: You won't find our bank accounts

Thursday, September 4, 2003

NICOSIA Hamas has scorned the U.S. decision to freeze the bank assets of six leaders of the Palestinian insurgency group.

Hamas said none of the six has bank accounts, particularly in the United States or West. Last month, the Bush administration announced it would seek to freeze assets of the Hamas leaders along with European and Lebanese charities that allegedly finance the group.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Lebanon, said neither he nor any of the other Hamas members cited in the U.S. decision has bank accounts. The others on the U.S. list include Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, his heir, Abdul Aziz Rentisi, politburo chief Khaled Masha'al, Mussa Abu Marzouk and Imad Alami, according to Middle East Newsline.

Hamdan told the Beirut-based Al Liwa'a daily that the decision by President George Bush has no credibility. Hamdan said the charities targeted by the United States focus on serving the Palestinians.

The Treasury Department named the European charities that aid Hamas as France's Committee for Welfare and Relief in Palestine, Switzerland's Palestine Relief Association, Britain's Palestine Relief and Development Fund, Austria's Palestinian Association and Lebanon's Sanabil Association for Relief and Development. Khalid Al Shuli is president of the French and Swiss organizations.

Hamas leaders have responded angrily to the Bush administration decision. They have urged European Union leaders to ignore the U.S. freeze order. On Friday, EU foreign ministers will discuss a proposal to classify all wings of Hamas as a terrorist entity.

[In Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinian insurgents surrounded the Palestinian Legislative Council in a protest that demanded the resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian sources said organizers of the demonstration were sent from the nearby headquarters of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. At one point, some of the Fatah insurgents broke down the door and windows of the PLC building when they tried to confront Abbas.]

For its part, the Palestinian Authority has reported the freezing of 39 bank accounts of nine Islamic charities supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. They include the Al Mujamma Al Islami, founded 30 years ago by Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. The fund, which focuses on helping the families of Palestinian prisoners, was registered by Israel in 1978.

Another group whose assets were temporarily frozen was the As-Salah Association, established in 1978 and which funds programs for schools in the Gaza Strip. Al Jamiya Al Islamiya, or the Islamic Association, was founded in 1976 and operates kindergartens, summer camps and sports clubs.

The Palestinian Monetary Authority has also reported freezing the assets of the Palestinian Student Friends Association, established in 1998 and which provides housing and tuition stipends. The PA also froze the bank accounts of the Islamic Charity for Zakat, which funnels money to Muslim families, and the Al Nour Charity Association, which helps the families of Palestinian detainees.

Other groups whose assets were frozen were the Islamic Young Women's Association, the Social Care Committee and Al Aqsa Charity Association.

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