Yellen says Hamas attack on Israel met with ‘universal condemnation’ at global meetings

By Andrea Shalal and David Lawder

MARRAKECH, Morocco (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday told Reuters she heard “universal condemnation” at this week’s annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank of the deadly attack on Israel by Hamas.

The United States already had “lots of sanctions” on the militant Palestinian group, and was constantly working to find a way to strengthen those, Yellen said shortly before Israeli forces began their first ground operations inside the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas fighters.

The United States has pledged robust solidarity with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as it works to stop any spillover from the war between Israel and Hamas.

Yellen spoke shortly after top finance officials from the Group of Twenty (G20) economies published a communique that omitted any mention of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, raising new questions about the role of a forum split by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Last weekend’s assault by Hamas – designated a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and other governments – on Israeli communities killed at least 1,300 people. Most were civilians, including women and children.

Israel has since been hammering Gaza with air strikes and artillery fire, and more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed.

Yellen made no comment on Israel’s response, which some human rights groups and the United Nations say amounts to “collective punishment.”

A senior Treasury official noted that the Group of Seven economies, a smaller group of like-minded countries, had condemned the attacks, and said the issue was “politically sensitive’ for the G20, which includes Russia and China.

Critics said the failure to even mention the sudden outbreak of war in the Middle East revealed the depth of the divisions roiling the G20, especially given its potential economic impact.

Yellen pushed back against criticism of the G20, saying, “I’ve talked to a wide range of people and there is universal condemnation of Hamas’s attack on Israel, adding clear concern over further large-scale civilian casualties in the conflict.

“I’m not hearing anybody who was not appalled by the attack on innocent Israelis,” she said.

Yellen said there was a widespread feeling that the G20 had been cooperating and responding well to issues facing developing countries, including through reforms of multilateral development banks and a likely agreement on a quota increase for the IMF.

“We’ve accomplished a fair amount and there’s a level of satisfaction with what’s been accomplished in spite of the fact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has clearly created many adverse global consequences,” she said.

Yellen said G7 countries expressed unanimous support for Ukraine, adding that she would discuss Ukraine with European finance ministers in Luxembourg next week.

She also underscored Washington’s determination to continue to enforce a G7-led price cap imposed on Russian oil after Washington on Thursday imposed the first sanctions on owners of tankers carrying Russian oil priced above the $60 per barrel.

The U.S., other G7 countries and Australia imposed the cap last year, seeking to reduce Russia’s revenues from seaborne oil exports as part of sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao and Alistair Bell)