U.K. to Designate Hamas as a Terror Group, Supporters Could Get 10-year Jailtime

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Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting in central London on October 27, 2021 before the government's annual budget announcement
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting in central London on October 27, 2021 before the government's annual budget announcement.Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

The U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Friday that she has "taken action" to designate Hamas as a terror organization, effectively outlawing the group. 

This comes after Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked his counterpart Boris Johnson to take the step at the Glasgow climate summit.

The proscription under the Terrorism Act will mean that any expression of support for Hamas, flying their flag, or holding a meeting for the organization could face up to 10 years in jail, according to a report in The Guardian.

The ban, however, still requires approval from parliament. 

Addressing reporters in Washington in a meeting with officials from the Biden administration, the Home Secretary said the move aims to combat antisemitism in the U.K., the British broadsheet added.  

The U.K. had already dubbed Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, are a terror group, but will join the U.S. and the European Union and Canada in the step.

“Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic. Antisemitism 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," Patel said. 

In response to the U.K.'s decision, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted, "Hamas is a terrorist organization, simple as that. Its 'political arm' enables its military activity. They are the same terrorists, only they wear suits.

Thank you and with much appreciation to my friend Boris Johnson for his leadership on the subject."

The Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, released a statement thanking Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and the British government for the decision. "Terrorism in suits is still terrorism," the statement read. "Extremist jihadism has no place in democratic countries or anywhere else." 

Calling the decision "further evidence of the deep and strong bond" between the two countries," it continued, "It is impossible to separate between the political wing and the military wing of an organization that has murdered innocent civilians for decades."  

According to political sources, the leaders of the two countries have stepped up the relationship between Israel and the U.K., with a focus on the Iran nuclear negotiations. The officials say the U.K. is ready to press other world powers on the talks on Israel's behalf.

Hamas, meanwhile, said the decision proves the U.K. is "biased" toward Israel. In a statement issued on Friday the organization criticized the decision, saying :"instead of apologizing to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration or British imperialism, it aligns itself with the Israeli occupation."

"Resisting occupation by any means is the right of any people under occupation." the statement continued, "Israel is the one acting like a terror state, hurting and attacking Palestinians. The international community, especially Britain and the UN, must stop sending mixed messages and speak out against Israel's blatant violation of international law."

The Palestinian Embassy to the United Kingdom condemned the move as well, describing it as "a retrograde step that will make peace-making harder and diminish the UK’s role."

In its statement, it said that the U.K. government has "complicated Palestinian unity efforts and undermined Palestinian democracy" and a that it will "do nothing for efforts to secure a peaceful two-state outcome, an outcome that is being undermined every day by Israeli war crimes, including its illegal colonial settlement project in occupied territory.” 

The Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the decision on Saturday calling it "a continuation of the inexplicable aggressive policy toward the Palestinian people who are still suffering a cruel and hostile occupation, which started with the Balfour Declaration." The ministry urged the British government to reject the decision and to not succumb to Israeli pressures saying: "Britain's stance toward Israel only piles obstacles ahead of any opportunity to reach a peace settlement."

Jack Khoury and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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