Cruz targets Hamas, regimes that use human shields in new legislation

(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on members of the terrorist organization Hamas, its affiliates, and countries that provide funding and safe harbor for them.

“The United States should use every resource at our disposal, including our diplomatic power and sanctions leverage, for as long as it takes, to e sure that our Israeli allies are able to utterly eradicate Hamas,” Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement.

The legislative proposal comes after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel and the Biden administration authorized hundreds of millions of dollars to be sent to Palestinians. Cruz said his measure, the Hamas Sanctions Act, is “the first piece of legislation to comprehensively target Hamas.”

“Instead of countering Hamas and its enablers, however, the Biden administration has spent the last two and a half years indirectly and even directly funding them. The administration poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip, despite knowing this would benefit Hamas terrorists, and allowed roughly $100 billion to flow to the Iranian regime, which they knew the Ayatollah would pass along to Hamas.”

FBI Director Chris Wray on Tuesday said Iranian-backed assassinations of U.S. officials recently have been thwarted on U.S. soil. He also said one of the greatest terrorist threats Americans face is from violent extremists inspired by Islamic groups, including Hamas and others funded by Iran.

“The administration also refuses to enforce sanctions against Hamas for terrorism, for the use of human shields, or against those who violate terrorism sanctions and provide Hamas with financial or material support,” Cruz said. His bill “would end these catastrophic policies, prohibit the administration from allowing further funds from flowing to Hamas and Iran, and end the ability to provide Hamas leaders with safe haven in violation of sanctions.”

The bill also would prohibit U.S. taxpayer money from being used in Gaza, rescind Biden administration exemptions from anti-terrorism laws, and prevent the Biden administration from unfreezing $16 billion worth of Iranian-sanctioned overseas accounts. There are $6 billion known, and an estimated $10 billion unknown, Iranian bank accounts in the Persian Gulf, he says.

The bill would impose sanctions on Iran’s “ghost fleet” of oil tankers, which Cruz says the Iranian regime has used to raise $80 billion under the Biden administration. Sanctions would also target tankers’ owners and operators and require the Biden administration to de-certify and de-flag Iranian vessels.

The bill would block Hamas operatives’ ability to “find safe havens abroad, including in Qatar or Turkey, by imposing sanctions on hotels, landlords, banks, and similar businesses in allied countries that provide services to Hamas leaders.” It would also require the federal government to determine if countries harboring Hamas operatives would qualify as state sponsors of terrorism.

After Hamas attacked Israel, a Hamas founder believed to be living in Qatar encouraged Palestinians worldwide to organize a “day of rage,” encouraging Palestinian students and pro-Hamas supporters to protest in the streets and on college campuses. In Florida, a pro-Hamas group was ordered to be shut down on state-funded campuses, and several pro-Hamas protestors were arrested.

It’s unclear if Cruz’s bill would pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, or if it did and the House also passed it, if the president would sign it.

In 2019, under the Trump administration, a bipartisan bill became law, which Cruz and former Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and 50 senators sponsored. It imposed sanctions on terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and their enablers, like Iran, that use civilians as human shields.

Cruz’s Hamas Sanctions Act would renew the 2019 law, which is set to expire, and also sanction Hamas’ affiliate, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Donnelly, currently the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and a previous member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after the 2019 bill passed, “The use of human shields is barbaric and illegal, and terrorist groups – including Hamas and Hezbollah – must be held responsible when they engage in this reprehensible practice.”

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