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Yellen warns Iran nothing 'off the table' as US weighs new sanctions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the Biden administration could tighten its sanctions against Iran following the Hamas militant attacks on Israel.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday the U.S. is not ruling out new sanctions against Iran if evidence emerges that the country was involved in the unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas militants.

The Biden administration freed up roughly $6 billion in Iranian oil sale revenue as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran that took place in September. Republican lawmakers have heavily criticized the move amid the recent eruption of violence in the Middle East and have called on the White House to re-freeze the money. 

Yellen, speaking at the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Marrakesh, Morocco, said the money has not been spent and could be re-frozen.

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"These are funds that are sitting in Qatar that were made available purely for humanitarian purposes, the funds have not been touched," she told reporters. "I wouldn’t take anything off the table in terms of future possible actions, but I certainly don’t want to get ahead of where we are on that."

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Yellen also pushed back against the belief that the U.S. has loosened its sanctions on Iran in recent years.

"We have not in any way relaxed our sanctions on Iranian oil," she said. "We have sanctions on Hamas, on Hezbollah. This is something we have been constantly looking at, and using information that comes available to tighten sanctions. We will continue to do that."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that it is not clear whether Iran was involved in the weekend attack by Hamas, which left at least 1,200 people in Israel dead and another 2,900 injured. 

"We have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there is certainly a long relationship," Blinken said during an interview on CNN’s "State of the Union."

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Israel has responded to the deadly incursion with a relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip as it prepares for a possible ground invasion. Palestinian authorities have said that at least 1,100 people have been killed and another 5,000 injured in Gaza due to the retaliatory attacks. 

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