By Erin Viner
“Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities, and it has long been involved in significant terrorist violence,” declared UK Interior Minister Priti Patel explain she has “acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”
While the United States and the European Union have long designated both Hamas wings as terrorist, the UK banned only the Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades military wing in 2001, while permitting support of the Palestinian group’s political wing.
“The current listing of Hamas creates an artificial distinction between various parts of the organization — it is right that the listing is updated to reflect this,” said Minister Patel during a speech in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
“This is an important step, especially for the Jewish community. If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security,” she underscored, adding, “Anti-Semitism is an enduring evil which I will never tolerate. Jewish people routinely feel unsafe — at school, in the streets, when they worship, in their homes, and online. This step will strengthen the case against anyone who waves a Hamas flag in the United Kingdom, an act that is bound to make Jewish people feel unsafe.”
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss echoed that statement on Twitter, writing that the move “will help tackle the scourge of anti-Semitism.”
The Islamist group, founded in 1987, is committed to annihilating Israel through “armed resistance” and opposes peace talks with the Jewish State. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from its bitter Palestinian rival Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a bloody internecine 2007 war.
During the Second Palestinian Intifada uprising two decades ago, Hamas suicide bombers killed hundreds of Israelis in a terror campaign publicly backed by its political wing.
Hamas has initiated multiple conflict with Israel over the past ten years, fired thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians and engaged in fire terrorism with airborne incendiary devices that have caused widespread damage to crops and natural reserves in the Jewish State. The Gaza-rulers and other Islamist factions in the Palestinian enclave launched the most recent round of fighting this past May, during what Israel calls the Operation Guardian of the Walls campaign.
Minister Patel is expected to submit the change for parliamentary approval this week, possible taking effect as soon as 26 November. Under the UK Terrorism Act, membership or support of Hamas would become punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Palestinians of all factions immediately denounced the UK.
“Resisting occupation by all available means, including armed resistance, is a right granted to people under occupation as stated by the international law,” said the Gaza-rulers in a statement.
Hamas Official Sami Abu Zuhri accused London of showing “absolute bias toward the Israeli occupation and is a submission to Israeli blackmail and dictations.”
The Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, representing Abbas’ Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), also condemned the move.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the decision, writing on Twitter that, “Hamas is a terrorist organization, simply put. The ‘political arm’ enables its military activity. The same terrorists — only in suits.”
Bennett thanked UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his “leadership on the subject.”
Israeli Foreign Minister and Alternate Premier Yair Lapid said, “This is an important and significant decision that gives British security bodies additional tools to prevent the continued buildup of the Hamas terror organization, including in Britain.”
“There is no legitimate part to a terror organization and any attempt to separate parts of a terror organization is artificial,” he added.