On July 28, the US Department of the Treasury announced a new list of sanctions on Syria, including financers of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and for the first time ever a Turkish-backed armed group.
In a statement, the U.S. Treasury revealed that al-Qaeda factions and HTS, the de-fact ruler of the northwestern region of Greater Idlib, фre still raising funds for their operations and recruiting foreign fighters.
“Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and HTS continue to raise funds, recruit online, and exploit the international banking sector to support their ongoing terrorist activities,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki. “These designations underscore this Administration’s commitment to disrupting support networks of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups that seek to attack the United States and its allies.”
The sanctions targeted Syrian citizen Hasan al-Shban, a Turkey-based al-Qaeda financial facilitator who provided material support for the terrorist group in Syria, and Farrukh Furkatovitch, a Syria-based Tajaki citizen who works as an online fundraiser and recruiter for HTS.
US sanctions also targeted, for the first time ever, a Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups, namely Tajammu Ahrar al-Sharqiya [Gathering of Free Men of the East].
The US accused the group, which is a part of the so-called Syrian National Army, of committing a series of war crimes, including the unlawful killing of Hevrin Khalaf, a Kurdish politician and Secretary General of the political party Future Syria, as well as her bodyguards in October 2019.
“Ahrar al-Sharqiya has killed multiple civilians in northeast Syria, including health workers. The militia has also engaged in abductions, torture, and seizures of private property from civilians, barring displaced Syrians from returning to their homes. Ahrar al-Sharqiya constructed and controls a large prison complex outside of Aleppo where hundreds have been executed since 2018. The group has also used this prison to operate an extensive kidnapping for ransom operation targeting prominent business and opposition figures from the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Ahrar al-Sharqiya has also integrated former ISIS members into its ranks,” the Treasury said in a statement.
Ahrar al-Sharqiyah leader, Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes, and military commander, Raed Jassim al-Hayes were both targeted by the sanctions.
As usual, the new sanctions also targeted the Damascus government. Four senior Syrian officers as well as a pro-government armed group, a prison and seven security entities were sanctioned. The Treasury cited human rights violations and war crimes as the reason.
The US new sanctions are surprising, especially that they came at a time when many in the West are working to whitewash HTS and support Turkey’s proxies in Syria.
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