Hamas should be removed from the European Union's terrorist list, an EU court ruled on Wednesday, saying the decision to include it was based merely on media and internet reports.
However, the General Court of the European Union, the bloc's second highest tribunal, said EU member states could maintain their freeze on Hamas's assets for three months to give time for further review or to appeal the ruling.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the decision by saying that Israel was “not satisfied” with the explanations of the EU that Hamas's removal is only a technical matter.
According to the “technical issue” argument, Hamas was removed from the list because the evidence used to place the organization on the list did not meet European standards. Two central EU countries have already been working on a dossier providing the court with the evidence that will satisfy it.
“The burden of proof is on the EU and we expect them to immediately return Hamas to the list where everyone realizes they should be,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization whose charter says that its aim is to destroy Israel. We will continue to fight it with determination and strength so that it will never realize its aims. "
The EU's envoy to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, told an official at the Foreign Ministry that Europe is committed to return Hamas to the list, Israel Radio reported.
Faaborg-Andersen said that Europe is working to bring the evidence against Hamas that would satisfy the court's requirements.
Hamas official Izzat al-Rishaq praised the decision, saying that the court had righted an injustice done to the organization, which he called a "national freedom movement," rather than a terrorist organization.
The EU court did not consider the merits of whether Hamas should be classified as a terror group, but reviewed the original decision-making process. This, it said, did not include the considered opinion of competent authorities, but rather relied on press and Internet reports.
"The court stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group," the court said in a statement.
It added that if an appeal against its ruling was brought before the EU's top court, the European Court of Justice, the freeze of Hamas funds should continue until the legal process was complete.
Appeals, which can only be based on points of law, may be brought within two months. The appeal itself would typically last about a year and a half.