On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that America isn’t ruling out placing new sanctions on Iran if intelligence officials uncover any evidence that shows the country was involved in any way in Hamas’ unprecedented and brutal attack on Israel over the weekend.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the U.S. has reached an agreement with Qatar to stop Iran from accessing the $6 billion that was unfrozen back in September as part of a prison swap deal. That’s according to a report from ABC News, which cited sources familiar with a meeting that took place between Yellen and lawmakers on Thursday.
Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the Treasury, said in a closed-door meeting with House Democrats that the $6 billion “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
The money that was freed was previously frozen as part of the sale of Iranian oil. Republican lawmakers criticized the move when it happened back in September, and they renewed calls for that money to be blocked as the U.S. continues to investigate whether Iran had a direct role in Hamas’ attack on Israel.
During meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Morocco this week, Yellen confirmed that the prisoner swap money hadn’t been spent yet and could still be re-frozen.
As she said to reporters there:
“These are funds that are sitting in Qatar that were made available purely for humanitarian purposes, the funds have not been touched. I wouldn’t take anything off the table in terms of future possible actions, but I certainly don’t want to get ahead of where we are on that.”
In addition, Yellen said the U.S. hasn’t loosened sanctions it has on Iran over the last few years.
“We have not in any way relaxed our sanctions on Iranian oil. We have sanctions on Hamas, on Hezbollah. This is something we have been constantly looking at, and using information that comes available to tighten sanctions. We will continue to do that.”
On Sunday, Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, said that it wasn’t clear what role, if any, that Iran played in Hamas’ attack, which has killed at least 1,200 people and resulted in almost 3,000 being injured.
In the days since, intelligence officials have said they received information that showed that Iran was actually surprised by Hamas’ attack. Even if the country wasn’t directly involved in planning the attack on Israel over the weekend, it certainly could be considered indirect contributors, since it provides the terrorist organization with money and funding.
Quickly after the attack, Israel responded in a very decisive way, bombarding the Gaza Strip with airstrikes. It has also cut power, food and water supplies to the enclave, stating they wouldn’t turn that back on until all Israeli fugitives who were taken by Hamas during the attack.
The Israeli attacks have resulted in more than 1,000 Palestinians being killed and many more being injured.