The Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, on Sunday called on European governments to remove Hamas and other Palestinian groups from their list of terrorist organizations.
The time has come for European states to lift Hamas’s classification as a terrorist group, Haniyeh told a European delegation to Gaza, days after Hamas and other terror groups fired 1,500 rockets into Israel in the course of an eight-day conflict with Israel. He said that his organization, and the other Palestinian groups operating in the Gaza Strip, are “national liberation movements engaged in self-defense in the face of Israel’s continued aggression against our people.”
According to Haniyeh, Israel is the world’s largest terrorist state. “The time has come to prosecute the leaders of the occupation for their continued crimes against our people, the latest being the Eight Days’ Aggression,” he said, referring to last month’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the occupation is committing war crimes, given the cruelty and hardship our people faced in these eight days of war,” Haniyeh said. He added that Hamas aspires to “a Palestinian state with complete sovereignty, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of the refugees to the lands they owned in 1948.”
Israel launched the eight-day operation in mid-November against Hamas and other terror targets in the Gaza Strip in response to relentless rocket attacks against cities and towns in southern Israel. The Israeli government and military repeatedly condemned Hamas for firing rockets from densely populated areas and for targeting Israeli civilians.
The European Union classifies Hamas and its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations. The United States and Canada also list them as terror entities.
Though Haniyeh thanked the delegates — among them 54 parliamentarians and political officials, according to Bethlehem-based Ma’an News — for “the effort that has been devoted to lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip and to mount an international legal campaign to prosecute the occupation’s leaders as war criminals,” he said that the root of the problem is the occupation of Palestinian land.
“We have no problem with Jews worldwide, and we don’t oppose Jews because of their Jewish identity,” Channel 10 quoted him saying. “We have a problem with the occupation that controls our land.”
Haniyeh made clear in comments last week that he regards all of former British mandate Palestine as occupied land, and that Hamas is committed to the armed struggle to destroy Israel.
“Palestine is the only country in the world that is occupied,” Haniyeh claimed. (In fact, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, for example, is internationally recognized as an occupied territory belonging to the Republic of Cyprus; and the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are internationally recognized as occupied by Russia.)
Israel established a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007 in order to prevent arms-smuggling into the enclave. Hamas violently removed its Fatah rivals from the Strip when grabbing power there in 2007, killing many of them in the process.