The European Union kept Hamas on its terrorism blacklist Friday despite a controversial court decision ordering Brussels to remove the Palestinian Islamist group from the register.
Brussels has lodged an appeal against a December ruling by the bloc’s second highest court that Hamas should be delisted for the first time since 2001.
“Hamas stays on list during Council’s appeal to December judgement,” Susanne Kiefer, a spokeswoman for the European Council said on Twitter.
The appeal process is expected to take around a year and a half.
Two other groups have however been withdrawn since the last EU list was published in July 2014: the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which US officials have accused of funnelling money to Hamas, and al-Takfir and al-Hijra, an Egyptian Islamist group.
An EU official said the relevant member states that originally put the groups on the list had “changed their minds,” adding that Italy had requested the listing of the Holy Land Foundation and Britain had sought the inclusion of al-Takfir and al-Hijra.
Hamas’s military wing was added to the EU’s first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. The EU then blacklisted the political wing of Hamas in 2003.
But the General Court of the European Union ruled last year that the Hamas blacklisting was based not on sound legal judgements but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet.
The row over the listing of Hamas, which has been in power in the Palestinian territory of Gaza since 2007, has threatened to undermine recent moves by Brussels to play a bigger role in reviving the moribund Middle East peace process.
Israel initially hit out at the court’s decision to remove the group from the blacklist, insisting the group carried out deliberate acts of terrorism against Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Hamas had described the EU’s appeal against the judgement by the General Court of the European Union as “immoral.” Hamas’s funds in Europe have remained frozen since the December decision.
Following Friday’s decision, the Islamist group slammed the European Union for working against their judicial system. “This decision completely contradicts the court’s ruling,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP.
“It is unjust and wrong to our people and legitimate resistance, and also encourages the occupation to continue its crimes,” he said of Israel.
“We reject this decision and call for its review, and to remove all forms of injustice against our people and Hamas,” Barhum said.
The EU list still includes organisations such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, Kurdish rebel group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Colombia’s FARC and Peru’s Shining Path.
A United Nations humanitarian report released on Thursday said that 2014 had the highest civilian death toll among Palestinians since 1967, while calling on Palestinian groups to refrain from firing rockets at Israel, and lamenting a “crisis of accountability” on both sides of the conflict.
In total, 2,314 Palestinian were killed due to the conflict with Israel, while 85 Israelis lost their lives. There were 17,125 Palestinian injuries and 2,629 Israeli injuries. In 2013, there were 39 Palestinian fatalities and five Israeli deaths. The main reason for the sharp increase in the number of casualties was the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip, the report noted, along with violence in Jerusalem that was fueled by the Gaza fighting and clashes over the Temple Mount.
Hamas, which seized Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a violent 2007 coup, is avowedly committed to destroying Israel. Israel says that at least half of the Gaza fatalities last summer were civilians. It blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities during the conflict since the Islamist group set up its war machine in residential areas, from where it fired thousands of rockets into Israel and dug attack tunnels under the border.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.