Malaysia’s Leader Rebuffs U.S. Sanctions on Supporters of Hamas

Malaysia’s Leader Rebuffs U.S. Sanctions on Supporters of Hamas

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reiterated Palestine’s right to defend itself, and said the Southeast Asian nation will continue its relationship with Hamas irrespective of U.S. pressure.

U.S. efforts to restrict external parties from supporting Hamas are unilateral and Malaysia will not recognize it, Anwar told Parliament on Tuesday. “Whatever happened is the legitimate right and struggle of the Palestinian people,” he said.

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Anwar was responding to a question from an opposition lawmaker, who had sought the government’s stance on the U.S. House of Representative’s Hamas International Financing Prevention Act. The bill was approved on Nov. 1 and imposes sanctions on foreign persons, agencies and governments that assist Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or their affiliates.

The U.S. is Malaysia’s third-largest trade partner. Last year, their bilateral commerce totaled about $77 billion, with Malaysia enjoying a trade surplus of $31.3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Any strain in relations could possibly affect trade terms.

“I will not accept any threats, including this,” said Anwar. “This action is unilateral and not valid, because we as members of the United Nations only recognize decisions made by the U.N. Security Council.”

Malaysia will back efforts by any country — including Palestine itself — to bring a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court, Anwar added.

Read More: The Struggle to Save Lives Inside Gaza’s Hospitals

Israel’s military said it exchanged fire with Hamas and Hezbollah, after Israeli forces advanced to encircle Gaza City. Gaza health officials said the death toll there has passed 10,000. The territory is run by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.

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