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UK: Hamas to be proscribed 'in its entirety' as a terrorist organisation, says Priti Patel

British home secretary threatens up to 10 years in jail for those publicly supporting Palestinian movement
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel smiles as she listens to the keynote speech of Britain's prime minister at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on 6 October 2021 (AFP)

Hamas will be banned as a terrorist organisation "in its entirety" in the UK with threats of up to 10 years in prison for those expressing support for the movement, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on Friday.

While giving a speech for the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington DC, Patel claimed the move would help tackle antisemitism in the UK and claimed the Palestinian movement had "long been involved in significant terrorist violence".

“Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic," she told the organisation. “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."

She said the move would "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.

"Anyone who supports or invites support for a proscribed organisation is breaking the law," she added.

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"That now includes Hamas."

The minister said she would aim to push through the change in parliament next week.

Wearing clothes that suggest support for Hamas, arranging meetings for the organisation, or publishing an image of its flag or logo that would lead to the same conclusion, would be in breach of the law.

She said "Hamas had significant terrorist capability including access" to weapons and added that the new rules would eliminate the "artificial distinction" between the political wing of Hamas and the military wing, which was already proscribed.

'Absolute bias' towards Israel

Patel was forced to resign as Britain's international development secretary in 2017 after she failed to disclose meetings with senior Israeli officials during a private holiday to the country.

She met with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-opposition leader Yair Lapid.

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Lapid, now Israel's foreign minister, welcomed the UK's decision on Hamas, describing it as "part of strengthening ties with Britain".

The move will bring the UK in line with the United States, Israel and the European Union, which all designate Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Hamas political official Sami Abu Zuhri said Britain's move showed "absolute bias toward the Israeli occupation and is a submission to Israeli blackmail and dictations".

"Resisting occupation by all available means, including armed resistance, is a right granted to people under occupation as stated by the international law," said Hamas in a separate statement.

"Instead of apologising and correcting its historical sin against the Palestinian people, whether in the ominous Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate that handed over Palestinian land to the Zionist movement, Britain supports the aggressors at the expense of the victims.

"The occupation is terrorism. Killing the indigenous population, displacing them by force, demolishing their homes and imprisoning them is terrorism," it added.

Israeli blockade

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after winning the previous year's election. 

The result was not recognised by its political rival Fatah, and internecine fighting broke out, which resulted in Fatah being largely routed from Gaza, but maintaining power in the West Bank.

More than two million Palestinians live under Israeli siege in the Gaza Strip.

Blockaded by Israel since 2006, the area has been described as "the world's largest open-air prison".

Since 2008, Israel and Hamas have fought three wars, in addition to countless flare-ups between the two sides.

During the most recent 11-day conflict in May, 250 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza, including 66 children. 

Thirteen people, including two children, were killed in Israel.

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