WASHINGTON -  The United States on Wednesday put the head of Palestinian movement Hamas, Ismail Haniya, on its terror blacklist and slapped sanctions on him - a move sure to raise tensions, after Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The 55-year-old Haniya, who was named head of Hamas in May 2017, represents the more pragmatic wing of the movement, which said the US move would not deter the group's "resistance."

"Haniya has close links with Hamas' military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians," the State Department said in a statement.

"He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Hamas has been responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks."

Haniya is now on the US Treasury sanctions blacklist, which freezes any US-based assets he may have and bans any US person or company from doing business with him. Hamas - which has controlled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade - had already been on the US terror blacklist since 1997.

The US government also slapped sanctions on Harakat al-Sabireen - a small militant group that splintered away from the Islamic Jihad, is close to Iran and operates in Gaza - and two other groups active in Egypt: Liwa al-Thawra and HASM.

"These designations target key terrorist groups and leaders - including two sponsored and directed by Iran - who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. "Today's actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities."

In Gaza, Hamas said: "The American decision to include Haniya on the terrorist list is a failed attempt to pressure the resistance. "This decision will not deter us from continuing the resistance option to expel the occupation."

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. The group receives military support from Iran.

Iran "continues to support a rogues' gallery of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others," Nathan Sales, the US State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said in a speech to an Israeli think tank on Wednesday.

He added that Tehran gives Palestinian militant groups "potentially up to $100 million annually."

Haniya replaced Khaled Meshaal, who now lives in Doha in exile, atop the Hamas movement. Unlike Meshaal, Haniya will remain in the Gaza Strip.

Also known as Abu Abed, Haniya was born in Gaza's Shati refugee camp in January 1963 to parents who fled when Israel was created in 1948. Relations between Washington and the Palestinians have been severely strained since US President Donald Trump broke with decades of policy in December to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Hamas leader voiced rage over the decision, saying it "crosses every red line," and called for a new intifada, or uprising.

"This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada," Haniya said.

Israel summons Irish envoy

over anti-settlement bill

Israel summoned on Wednesday the Irish ambassador for clarifications over legislation prohibiting trade in or from occupied territories, the foreign ministry said, despite its legislative process being postponed.

The Irish initiative, introduced to the Senate on Tuesday but yet to be voted on, would make it "an offence for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory," the bill reads.

While it does not specify the occupied territories, the Israeli government understood it as singling out the Jewish state, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the bill of seeking to support the boycott of the entire state.

Ireland's ambassador to Israel was summoned to the foreign ministry on Wednesday at Netanyahu's instruction for a "clarification meeting," a statement said, despite the actual voting on the bill being postponed to an "unknown date".

The envoy, Alison Kelly, told the Israeli officials the bill was "raised by independent representatives in the Irish Senate and that the Irish government opposes the initiative," the foreign ministry said.

UN reviews 206 companies over

links to settlements

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Wednesday that it was reviewing 206 companies over activities involving Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

The long-awaited report, which did not name the companies, was in response to a 2016 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a "database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory".

Israel's UN envoy Danny Danon strongly condemned the report, noting it was released "on the day that the UN is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day".

"This is a shameful act, which will serve as a stain on the UNHRC forever," he said. "We will continue to act with our allies and use all the means at our disposal to stop the publication of this disgraceful blacklist." Published by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report said 143 of the companies are based in Israel or the settlements, 22 in the United States, seven in Germany, five in the Netherlands and four in France.

The report had been meant to be released last March, but the deadline was pushed back to the end of 2017 due to limited resources and the scale of the job, with a presentation expected in March 2018.

Only 64 of the companies have been contacted so far, the report said.

"Once OHCHR has been in contact with all 206 companies... OHCHR expects to provide the names of the companies engaged in listed activities in a future update," it said. Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem in often confrontational proximity to nearly three million Palestinians.

UN appeal may be 'lifeline'

for Palestinian refugees

after US cuts

An urgent plea for hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Palestinian refugees from Syria could provide a "lifeline" after "catastrophic" US funding cuts, UN officials in Beirut said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, launched its annual funding appeal for $800 million, about half for Palestinians in the occupied territories, and the other half for those affected by Syria's war.

UNRWA is facing an additional funding challenge to its 2018 budget after its largest donor to date, the United States, announced it would contribute just $60 million, down from around $360 million last year. Making up the difference would require a major effort from the agency, officials said. "This is emergency funding. It is life saving," said Mohammed Adar, who heads UNRWA's Syria branch. "Whatever we are providing to them, we are throwing to them a lifeline," Adar told AFP.

The agency is requesting $409 million to support 438,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, but also nearly 50,000 Palestinians who fled Syria to Jordan and Lebanon. Those funds are primarily used by families to pay for rent, as well as food, clothes, blankets, and other everyday expenses.

"Before the war, only about seven percent (of Palestinian refugees in Syria) were dependent on UNRWA for assistance," said Adar. "Today, it is 95 percent of that population which is entirely dependent on the support and assistance that we give."

EU says US needed for Mideast

peace but can't do alone

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini urged US reengagement in the Middle East peace process Wednesday after President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"This is a difficult moment," she said after an extraordinary meeting of international donors in Brussels to discuss the Trump administration's decision to cut aid to the Palestinians. "If I can put it in a headline, nothing without the United States, nothing with the United states alone," she told a press conference with the visiting foreign minister of Norway, a key donor.

The Palestinians have said the United States can no longer mediate in the Middle East conflict following Trump's decision on Jerusalem, which they also consider to be their capital.

The row threatens to derail the Trump administration's peace plan, which had been set to be presented to both sides later this year.

The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians and has spoken out against Trump's Jerusalem decision.

"For the United States' plan, we'll wait and see. We don't have for the moment details or even a time framework, said Mogherini.

"For us what counts is first and foremost that everybody recognises the United States are essential for any process to realistically have a chance to succeed. But also for our American friends to understand that alone it will be more difficult to achieve anything."

Trump last week accused the Palestinians of disrespecting the US and threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid until they returned to the negotiating table.

Provoking Palestinian outrage, he reaffirmed his Jerusalem decision and said the disputed city had been taken "off the table", despite having previously said his recognition did not preclude later negotiations on its borders.