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Iran doubles down on backing Hamas, says US unable to block $6 billion fund

The Islamic Republic has dismissed a reported US-Qatari deal on pausing an expected release of unfrozen Iranian funds while warning that other Iran-baked regional proxies could join Hamas' battle against Israel.
TOPSHOT - Members of the Iranian Basij forces stage a mock arrest of a man dressed like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an anti-Israeli rally to show their solidarity with Palestinians in the capital Tehran on October 13, 2023. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran on Friday in a show of support for Palestinians amid a bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

TEHRAN — Iranian authorities denied US media reports that Washington and Doha had agreed to hold the release of $6 billion kept in Qatari banks that were expected to be unfrozen as part of a US-Iranian prisoner swap last month.

"The U.S. government knows that it can NOT renege on the agreement," Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations announced on its social media accounts. "The money rightfully belongs to the people of Iran, earmarked for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the acquisition of all essential requisites for the Iranians."

Hours before the US reports, Iran's Central Bank claimed in a statement that the funds held in Qatar remained available to Iranian banks. In addition, it said, a separate $10 billion in Iranian funds — held in Iraqi banks due to US sanctions — were set to be transferred back to Tehran.

The reported US move to block the release of the Iranian funds was a response to the Islamic Republic's backing of Hamas militants. The group killed more than 1,300 people in Israel over the weekend in a series of surprise attacks. Israel has been retaliating with relentless airstrikes on Gaza, killing nearly 1,800 Palestinians, many of them women and children, along with a further tightening of its siege on the already impoverished enclave.

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