On November 14, 2023, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a Compliance Communiqué to provide guidance for those who wish to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. The guidance clarifies that US sanctions to not prohibit the provision of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
US sanctions prohibit US persons from engaging in transactions with blocked persons pursuant to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (“GTSR”) or the Foreign Terrorist Organization Sanctions Regulations (“FTOSR”); and although some organizations and individuals operating in Gaza and the West Bank are designated, those areas are not themselves subject to jurisdiction-based sanctions. Thus, existing general licenses allow US persons to support humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza through non-governmental organizations that are not blocked. Medicine, food, and agricultural commodities may be provided to non-blocked NGOs, and official business of the US government may be conducted through implementing partners under the auspices of Sections 584.518 and 597.514 of the regulations. Similarly, general licenses issued under Sections 594.519 and 597.515 authorize transactions serving the official business purposes of certain international organizations and their employees, contractors and grantees, provided there is no reason to know that the intended beneficiary is blocked.
The communiqué clarifies that US persons may donate funds to domestic and foreign NGOs providing humanitarian aid in Gaza and the West Bank, but warns that donors should conduct appropriate due diligence, given the risk of Hamas financing. US persons can similarly donate goods and services to humanitarian-purposed NGOs. With regard to fuel and gas for use in Gaza and the West Bank, OFAC encourages NGOs to exercise caution to ensure that blocked persons are not the beneficiaries of such fuel, and to contact OFAC with questions about the existing general licenses.
The general licenses do not authorize the knowing transfer of funds to a blocked person (except for the payment of taxes, permits, duties, and public utilities), but if a designated person holds a leadership role in a governing institution, the institution itself is not deemed blocked, and US persons may engage in routine interactions with the institution.