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Australia labels most popular Palestinian resistance group as terrorist

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CANBERRA: Australia has listed the entire Hamas (most popular Palestinian resistance movement) as a terrorist organization, calling the move a deterrent to political and religious violence and bringing Australia in line with the United States, the European Union, and Britain.

Hamas was founded in 1987, soon after the First Intifada broke out, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which in its Gaza branch had previously been nonconfrontational toward Israel and hostile to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin said in 1987

It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and became the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip following the 2007 Battle of Gaza. It also holds a majority in the parliament of the Palestinian National Authority.

In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly rejected a US resolution condemning Hamas as a terrorist organization. Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal are based in Qatar.

“The hateful ideologies of terrorist groups and those who support them have no place in Australia,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement.

“Our strong laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organisations that plan, finance and carry out these abhorrent acts,” she added. 

Australia had for two decades proscribed Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization but flagged last month that it wanted to upgrade the listing to the whole organization, a process that involved consulting Australia’s state and territory leaders.

The change puts Australia into lockstep with its allies, which have also been moving to tighten their opposition to the Gaza ruling body, citing its access to sophisticated weaponry and terrorist training facilities.

Listing organizations was a deterrent to violent extremism and sent a message that Australia condemned the use of violence to achieve political, religious, or ideological aims, she added.

Proscribing an organization in Australia makes it illegal to give it funds, support, or services.

Hamas has political and military wings, both now designated. It has ruled the Gaza Strip since the war in 2007 when it expelled forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Abbas remains dominant in Palestinian self-rule areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Australia has been building its list of designated terrorist groups, which now number 28. 

Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. New Zealand and Paraguay have designated only its military wing as a terrorist organization. It is not considered a terrorist organization by Brazil, China, Egypt, Iran, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Syria and Turkey.

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