Australia to list entirety of Hamas as terrorist organization

Australia is following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom with this move. The UK made an identical designation back in November. 

 An Australian flag is seen hung in a tree burnt by bushfire on the property of farmer Jeff McCole in Buchan, Victoria, Australia (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)
An Australian flag is seen hung in a tree burnt by bushfire on the property of farmer Jeff McCole in Buchan, Victoria, Australia
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)

Australia announced its intention to designate the entirety of the Hamas movement as a terrorist organization, Australian media reported on Thursday. The designation will come into effect in the coming weeks, Army Radio noted.

Australia had previously designated Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades as a terror group, but the revised labeling will include all other parts of the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, discussed the designation at the COP26 2021 UN Climate Change Conference last year. With this move, Australia is following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which applied the same designation in November.

“Thank you to my friend @ScottMorrisonMP for following through on our dialogue on this important matter,” Bennett tweeted. “This is another important step in the global fight against terrorism.”

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem condemned the Australian decision as biased in favor of Israel.

“The occupation (Israel), which deliberately targets Palestinians everywhere, and violates international and humanitarian laws, is the party that must be classified as a terrorist entity,” he said.

 The Australian flag (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons) The Australian flag (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A person found guilty of a terrorist offense in Australia may face up to 25 years in prison, according to the Australian Attorney-General’s Department, and an offense might include being a member of, training, recruiting or directing activities of a terrorist organization. Other offenses include receiving and/or acquiring funds from or for a terror organization.

“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbing, and there is no place in Australia for such views,” said Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. “It is vital that our laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organizations that plan, finance and carry out these acts,” according to The Australian.

Andrews has also stated that she will add Syrian jihadist groups Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras al-Din, as well as neo-Nazi group National Socialist Order to Australia’s list of banned terror organizations.

Australia designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in November, along with white supremacist neo-Nazi organization The Base.

Before changing Hezbollah’s status, Australia in 2003 designated only the Lebanese militia’s External Security Organization a terrorist group. But in labeling all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Australia aligned with the US, UK, Israel, Canada and Germany.

James Paterson, chairman of the Australian Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee, said that “any Australian supporting Hamas could be committing a serious crime – a powerful deterrent to make Australia safer,” the report added.

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization predicated on destabilizing the region & destroying Israel,” the Israeli Embassy in Canberra tweeted.

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) welcomed the designation shortly after it was announced.

“By taking this decision, the minister has made clear Australia’s absolute rejection of hatred and terrorism,” said ZFA President Jeremy Leibler. “There is absolutely no doubt that Hamas in its entirety meets the definition of [a] terrorist organization. Not only is this decision the right one in terms of Australian law, but it also brings Australia into alignment with the UK, Canada, US and EU positions on Hamas.”

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said that “for many years, AIJAC has been arguing that Australia’s partial listing of Hamas was inadequate.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed the announcement: “Australia has, once again, chosen to be on the right side of history,” she said.

“This declaration will make joining or assisting Hamas a criminal offense in Australia,” tweeted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Thank you to our Australian partners for designating the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organization – including its “political” wing, which plans, finances and conducts terror activities,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “Hamas targets civilians, threatens the State of Israel, and holds Gaza residents hostage.”

Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.