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Hamas applauds EU decision to remove movement from terror list

Dec. 17, 2014 9:35 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 19, 2014 11:20 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement on Wednesday applauded the European Union General Court for its decision to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations earlier in the day.

Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil told Ma'an that he hopes that other EU countries will honor the change of policy and "commit" to it.

Al-Bardawil said that Hamas as a movement had "not shut any doors of communication and discussion with any international body except for Israel."

The statements come hours after the General Court of the European Union ruled that the original listing of Hamas as a terrorist organization in 2001 was based not on sound legal judgements but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet.

But it stressed that the decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and does "not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group."

"The General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet," the statement said.

Founded in 1987 shortly after the start of the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, against the Israeli occupation, Hamas was inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and has maintained an extensive network of social services and organizations in additions to its famed military wing, which has fought Israeli rule for decades.

The move has incensed Israeli authorities, who have been hit by a series of international decisions in favor of Palestinians in recent weeks, notably the passage of a resolution in the European Parliament on Wednesday supporting recognition of Palestinian statehood as well as recognitions of Palestine as a state by Western European national parliaments.

Israel strongly opposes any recognition of Palestine as a state by other states, though more than 130 countries around the world -- with the exception of the United States, the United Kingdom, and a few dozen others -- do so.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response said on Wednesday Europeans appeared to have learned nothing from the Holocaust, after an EU court ordered the removal of Hamas from its terror blacklist.

"In Luxemburg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, Hamas that has committed countless war crimes and countless terror acts," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

"It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil six million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing."

"But we in Israel, we've learned. We'll continue to defend our people and our state against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy," he said at the start of a meeting with US Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst.

Netanyahu also lambasted an international conference in Geneva that he said sought to probe accusations of Israeli war crimes.

Switzerland gathered diplomats from 126 of the 196 signatories of the Geneva Conventions to discuss protections for civilians, fulfilling a five-year-old request for such a conference from the UN General Assembly.

"Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy," Netanyahu said. "In Geneva they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes."

Paul Fivat, Switzerland's special ambassador for the Geneva Conventions, said that the intention was "not to accuse, it was not a tribunal ... it was a place simply for the parties to reiterate what is international law."

"This declaration is a signal that is being sent to conflicting parties, especially the civilian populations, that there is a law which is protecting their interests," he told reporters.

The Palestinians warn that they may seek to sign up to the International Criminal Court and have threatened to file a suit against Israel over its July-August war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians.

Israel has in the past repeatedly refused to comply with international inquiries into its policies and treatment of Palestinians under occupation, especially the numerous military assaults on Gaza.

AFP contributed to this report.
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