24 March 2004
Britain has ordered the freezing of bank accounts of five senior members the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, including its new leader in Gaza, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
The British treasury chief, Gordon Brown, issued the order, saying the individuals named are suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism.
In addition to Mr. Rantisi, those named are Musa Abu Marzouk, Imad Khalil al-Alami, Usama Hamdan, and the overall leader of Hamas, Khalid Mishaal.
Mr. Rantisi was chosen Tuesday to replace Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as chief Hamas official in Gaza. Sheikh Yassin was killed Monday by the Israeli military .
A spokesman for the British Treasury department said the assets freeze had been planned for some time, and its announcement two days after the Yassin assassination was purely coincidental.
The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been no second thoughts about freezing the accounts of Mr. Rantisi, after his new role was announced.
A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza City told the French news agency the British action is pointless, because the Hamas leaders do not have bank accounts in Britain.
The British government was harshly critical of Israel for killing Sheikh Yassin. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said such targeted killings or assassinations are unlawful, unacceptable, and unjust.