Britain will proscribe Palestinian militant group Hamas as a terrorist organisation, its interior ministry said on Friday, a move that would bring its position on Gaza’s rulers in line with the United States and EU.
The organisation would be banned under the Terrorism Act and that anyone expressing support for Hamas, flying its flag or arranging meetings for the organisation would be in breach of the law, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper which the ministry said was accurate.
The Times newspaper said interior minister Priti Patel would announce the move in Washington and present it to parliament next week.
Until now, Britain has banned only Hamas’s military wing — the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed reports of the decision. In a Twitter post he said “Hamas is a terrorist organization, simply put. The ‘political arm’ enables its military activity. The same terrorists – only in suits.”
A Hamas official in Gaza said it would wait until an official announcement from Britain before issuing a response.
Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1987, it is opposed to the existence of Israel, and opposes peace talks, instead advocating “armed resistance” against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The most recent outbreak of violence was an 11-day conflict in May, in which Palestinian officials say 250 people were killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza, including 66 children. Israeli officials say 13 people, including two children, were killed in Israel by militant rockets.
Interior minister Patel was forced to resign as Britain’s international development secretary in 2017 after she failed to disclose meetings with senior Israeli officials during a private holiday to the country.
She met with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett’s predecessor, and then-opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Lapid, now Israel’s foreign minister, hailed the expected decision on Hamas as “part of strengthening ties with Britain.”
Israel and the United States regard all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. It is on the U.S. list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. The European Union also deems it a terrorist movement.
Based in Gaza, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, defeating its nationalist rival Fatah. It seized military control of Gaza the following year.