The Organization of American States, an international coalition of 35 countries in North and South America, has designated Hamas a terrorist organization amid Israel’s worst bout of fighting with the group in years.
“The recent attacks launched by Hamas against the Israeli civilian population undoubtedly constitute attacks of a terrorist nature,” Luis Almagro of Uruguay, the OAS secretary-general, wrote Monday in a statement. “Hamas’s terrorist aggression is unlimited and always seeks civilian victims, seeks to escalate conflict dynamics and armed actions, as well as sowing terror among innocent populations, be they Israeli or Palestinian.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American branch applauded the move and pointed to four member states whose governments have expressed opinions counter to the OAS statement: Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela.
“We congratulate Secretary General Luis Almagro for clarifying this to the OAS’ member-states whose foreign ministries have taken positions of ignorance or partiality,” Simon Wiesenthal regional director Ariel Gelblung said.
The Argentina Foreign Ministry released a statement last week titled “Concern about the situation in Israel and Palestine” expressing “deep concern” over what it deemed a “disproportionate use of force” by Israel as well as the rocket fire from Gaza.
The United States, a member of the OAS, already considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
The OAS, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States held in the US capital in 1889.
Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living near Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock.
Israel, in response, launched an extensive bombing campaign in the Strip. The humanitarian crisis has deepened in the impoverished Strip, with the UN saying 72,000 Palestinians have been displaced.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured over the past ten days.
On Wednesday, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry updated the death toll in the Strip to 227, including more than 64 minors. It was not immediately clear if the ministry tally included all of those killed or if there were Hamas operatives not included in the count.
According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed were members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. The IDF says some of the Gaza civilian fatalities were killed by the terror groups’ own rockets falling short and exploding in Gaza.