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US offers $5m bounty for Hamas official

U.S Ambassador Tim Sales (right) and Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff (left) [U.S Federal Government Website]

The US Department of State yesterday announced that it is offering a reward up to $5 million for or information leading to the identification or location of Hamas’ deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri.

Al-Arouri has been the deputy chief of the political bureau of Hamas since 2017. He was charged by Israel of founding the movement’s armed wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, and was imprisoned for 18 years in Israeli occupation prisons, he was last released in 2010 when he was deported to the Turkish capital Ankara. In 2014, Israel accused Al-Arouri of involvement in the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas said the decision “serves the interests of Israel and its racist and aggressive policies against the Palestinian people”. It also reflects Washington’s bias “in favour of the [Israeli] enemy”, Hamas said.

The State Department also issued rewards for information on two Hezbollah leaders, Khalil Yusif Harb and Haytham Ali Tabtaba’i. The three are designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US Department of the Treasury.

This designation is part of the US’ “Rewards for Justice Program” through which “the Secretary of State may authorize rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, aids, or attempts international terrorist acts against US persons or property, that prevents such acts from occurring in the first place”.

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The statement noted Al-Arouri’s involvement in founding Al-Qassam Brigades, adding he is collaborating with Qasem Soleimani, the chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The statement noted that “Harb has commanded and supervised Lebanese Hezbollah’s military operations in the Palestinian territories and in several countries throughout the Middle East”. Tabtaba’i was also claimed to be involved in “a larger Hezballah effort to provide training, material, and personnel in support of its destabilising regional activities”.

Lebanonese Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah’s son was also named a terrorist by the US yesterday. Jawad was accused of carrying out attacks against Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. The department also blacklisted Al-Mujahidin Brigades (AMB), which it said had links to the Lebanese group and had plotted a number of attacks against Israeli targets from a base in the Palestinian Territories.

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