The United Kingdom’s decision Friday to designate the entirety of Hamas as a terror organization and outlaw support for the group is a major blow for the Islamist group, which carries out significant fundraising there, Channel 13 reported.
The UK proscribed the terror group’s military wing — the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades — in 2001. But the Hamas political leadership remained technically in the clear until now.
This enabled Hamas to raise funds that were channeled to institutions including Gaza’s Islamic University, the leading facility for advancing the technology used in Hamas missile and other weapons development, the report said.
Hamas reacted angrily to the decision, with spokesperson Hazim Qasim calling it “a new crime committed by Britain against our Palestinian people.”
In a separate statement, Hamas condemned the move as one of a long line of British “sins” against the Palestinian people. The terror group singled out the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which affirmed British support for establishing a Jewish state.
“Rather than apologizing and correcting its historical sins towards the Palestinian people, whether the shameful Balfour Declaration, or the British Mandate, that turned Palestinian land over to the Zionist movement — [Britain] supports the aggressors at the expense of the victims,” the terror group said in a statement.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is in charge of domestic security, said on Friday on Twitter that she had “acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”
The ban, which must be approved by Parliament, would make it illegal in Britain to be a member of Hamas or to express support for the group, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The government said it hoped the banning order would be approved by Parliament within the week and take effect November 26.
Channel 13 said that Israel had been working with the UK for a long time in a bid to bring about the ban, but the final decisions were made following talks between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his British counterpart Borris Johnson earlier in the month on the sidelines of the Glasgow environment summit.
Former opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn notoriously once referred to Hamas as his “friends” and invited Hamas-affiliated people to speak in Parliament, including extremists who praised suicide bombers and called for attacks on British troops.
Corbyn later said he regretted using the term “friends.”
Highlighting the effects of the new law, a Daily Mail headline Friday on the imminent ban read: “Jeremy Corbyn faces 10 years in jail if he meets Hamas ‘friends’ again.”
Israel welcomed the move. Bennett praised the decision, saying that there was no distinction between the terror group’s political leaders and its armed wing.
“Hamas is a terror organization, plain and simple. The ‘political wing’ enables its military activity. The same terrorists — only in suits,” Bennett tweeted.
Explaining the decision, Patel wrote that Hamas “has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities.”
“We’ve taken the view that we can no longer disaggregate the sort of military and political side,” she said, according to The Guardian. “It’s based upon a wide range of intelligence, information and also links to terrorism. The severity of that speaks for itself.”
The terror group did not dispute Patel’s claim. Instead, Hamas responded by claiming that violent resistance against Israel was legitimate under international law.
“Resisting occupation, by any available means, including armed resistance, is a right guaranteed to peoples under occupation in international law. It is the occupation that is terrorism,” Hamas said.
“Our Palestinian people, and behind them the Arab and Islamic nations and all the free people of the world, are on their way to freedom and the return [to Israel], no matter what sacrifices that might entail,” Hamas concluded.
Rights groups have consistently said that indiscriminate Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli cities do not comply with the laws of war, and thus constitute potential war crimes.
The United States and the European Union already consider Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, to be a terror group. The organization, which was founded during the First Intifada, became infamous for masterminding dozens of bloody suicide attacks against Israelis.
The Islamists took over Gaza in 2007 during a civil war with their Fatah rivals, who control the Palestinian Authority. Since then, Hamas has fought successive wars with Israel and launched thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.
A group of so-called Palestinian “resistance” factions, including Hamas, announced that they would hold an emergency meeting on Saturday in response to the announcement.
The Islamic Jihad terror group, which often coordinates attacks against Israelis with Hamas, also condemned Patel’s announcement.
“Resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian forces will not abandon the exercise of this right in all its forms,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.
Agencies contributed to this report