The UK government plans to declare the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organisation with any acts of support for the group punishable by prison time. The move is led by Home Secretary Priti Patel as she declares previous distinctions to be ‘artificial’.
Currently, only the military arm of the Palestinian Islamist organisation, names Izz al-Dinqassam Brigades, is proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. But Ms Patel wants the distinction removed to join up the whole of an organisation that has “significant terrorist capacity”.
Any signs of support for Hamas, whether organising events in support or even flying the movement’s flag, could see punishments of up to 14 years in prison under the new plans. The move would see the UK line up with Isreal, the US and the EU in its approach to the group.
Ms Patel tweeted: “This government is committed to tackling extremism and terrorism wherever it occurs”. She stated “Hamas as significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities. That is why today I have acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”
The proscription order has been introduced and debating and voting will follow, as the move will require parliamentary approval.
In a response to Sky News, Hamas has expressed its “shock and dismay” at Ms Patel’s statement. It said: “The Palestinian people, backed by the Arab and Muslim nations and the free people of the world, will continue their fight for freedom and return at any cost and will not be discouraged by those who failed to support them. We are confident that the Palestinians will fulfil their aspirations for freedom and independence sooner or later. This is a lesson.”
Ms Patel hinted that others could be proscribed if they support terrorism. She said: “This is only one proscription I’ve announced today, and I’ve mentioned other proscriptions too. But fundamentally, we can never, ever take our eye off the ball when it comes to those countries – Iran being one of them, I’ve referenced others too – that are out there to completely destroy our values, our way of life, do us the ultimate harm.”
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