Priti Patel moves to make supporting Hamas illegal

Those who express support or have membership for Palestinian militant group Hamas in the UK could soon face a maximum of 14 years in prison.

The government intends to ban Hamas as a terrorist organisation, saying it will no longer differentiate between the group’s political and military wings.

The military arm of Hamas has been outlawed in the UK since 2001 but the organisation as a whole is not proscribed.

Home secretary Priti Patel said on Twitter that she had “acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”

She said the group “has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities.”

Foreign secretary Liz Truss tweeted that the move “will help tackle the scourge of antisemitism.”

A ban, which must be approved by Parliament, would make it illegal in Britain to be a member of Hamas or to express support for the group, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The government said it hoped the banning order would be approved by Parliament within the week and take effect on November 26.

What is Hamas?

Hamas, a Palestinian group that opposes Israel’s existence, has governed the Gaza Strip since taking over the area in 2007, a year after it won a Palestinian election.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the US and the European Union.

The Times reported that the Home Secretary said on Thursday night: “We’ve taken the view that we can no longer disaggregate the sort of military and political side. It’s based upon a wide range of intelligence, information and also links to terrorism. The severity of that speaks for itself.”

She will add in a keynote speech on security and counter terrorism at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on Friday: “Hamas commits, participates (in), prepares for and promotes and encourages terrorism. If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security.”

The Home Office said that Ms Patel’s decision to proscribe Hamas followed advice from the cross-government Proscription Review Group.

Hamas militants

Israel welcomed the British announcement. Defence Minister Benny Gantz said it “sends a strong message of zero tolerance toward terrorist activities aimed at harming the State of Israel and Jewish communities.” In Gaza, Hamas expressed “shock and dismay” at the British government’s decision and accused the UK of continuing “with its aggression against the Palestinian people.” “The UK government should have apologised for its historic sin against the Palestinian people,” the group said in a statement. “Now, the UK government sides with the aggressor against the victim.”