SYDNEY (Reuters) -The Australian government intends to list the entirety of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas as a terrorist organisation under the country’s criminal code, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Thursday.
A listing by Australia of the whole group, rather than just its military wing as at present, would bring Canberra’s stance in line with the United States, the European Union and Britain.
“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbing and there is no place in Australia for their hateful ideologies,” Andrews said in a statement.
Andrews said she had written to Australia’s state and territory leaders to consult with them on listing the whole of Hamas, “and will finalise the listing as soon as possible”.
Hamas has political and military wings. It has ruled the Gaza Strip since a brief civil war in 2007 when it expelled forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas remains dominant in Palestinian self-ruled areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem condemned the Australian decision as biased in favour of Israel.
“The occupation, which deliberately targets Palestinians everywhere, and violates international and humanitarian laws, is the party that must be classified as a terrorist entity,” he said.
Hamas was founded in 1987 and opposes the existence of Israel and peace talks, instead advocating “armed resistance” against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
“I welcome the news that Australia will list Hamas as a terrorist organization in its entirety,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement, thanking Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the move.
Currently the military wing of Hamas, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is on Australia’s list of terrorist organisations.
Andrews said Australia had newly listed three other groups as terrorist organisations – Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which are based in Syria, and the Nationalist Socialist Order, a group based in the United States.
Another four Islamist militant groups – the Abu Sayyaf Group, al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, and Jemaah Islamiyah – have been relisted under the code, she said.
(Reporting by John Mair in Sydney, Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in GazaEditing by Andrew Cawthorne and Mark Heinrich)