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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 20:40 GMT
US targets Hamas finances
Israeli police examine the wreckage of a bus after a suicide attack in Haifa
Hamas claimed responsibility for the Haifa attack
The Bush administration has frozen the assets of a US-based charity and two other groups accused of financing the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas.

President George W Bush named the charity as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, one of the largest Muslim charities in the US.

The two financial groups are Al Aqsa International Bank and the investment group Beit El-Mal Holding Company. Both companies are based in Palestinian-controlled territory.

Those who do business with terrorists will do no business with the United States

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush said all three organisations had direct links to Hamas, which has taken responsibility for the latest suicide attacks in Israel which killed at least 25 people and injured 200.

Mr Bush said money raised by the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation had been used by Hamas to indoctrinate children, to recruit and train suicide bombers and to support their families.

"Those who do business with terrorists will do no business with the United States," he told reporters.

'Affront to millions'

The US administration had planned to move against the three groups later this month, but decided to bring the action forward.

The BBC's Johnny Dymond in Washington says the move comes as a direct result of the weekend's bomb attacks, which marked one of the deadliest chapters in the 14-month Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Hamas supporters at a funeral
Bush says money from the US was used to train bombers
Four US offices of the Holy Land Foundation, which raised $13 million last year, have been closed by federal officers.

The foundation earlier denied that it was a front for Hamas, which is already on a State Department list of terrorist organisations.

"The foundation has never provided funds, services, or any other form of support to Hamas or any other group that advocates, sponsors, or endorses terrorism, terrorist acts, or violence in any form or for any purpose", the charity said in a statement published on its website.

A spokesman for the group, which says its mission is to provide mainly humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees, said the US administration's decision was an affront to millions of Muslim Americans.

Closing the net

It is unclear what assets the two other organisations, Al Aqsa and Beit El-Mal, have in the United States.

A Hamas spokesman said the militant group was funded entirely by the Palestinian people and received no funding from America or the outside world.

Since the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush administration has taken several steps to disrupt the financing of groups it accuses of terrorism.

It has tightened laws controlling money laundering, ordered the freeze of assets of numerous suspected organisations and individuals and closed money-transfer businesses suspected of aiding militant groups.

US President George W Bush
"The net is closing, today it just got tighter"
The BBC's Richard Lister reports from Washington
says President Bush's tough stance will have an effect on the Palestinians
See also:

04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat's Hamas problem
07 Nov 01 | Americas
US blocks Bin Laden money networks
07 Nov 01 | Business
Will Bush's asset freeze work?
12 Oct 01 | Americas
US widens freeze on suspects' funds
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Hamas?
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mid-East stunned by suicide attacks
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