PLO rejects US terror designation of Hamas chief

Special PLO rejects US terror designation of Hamas chief
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures as he delivers a speech in Gaza City on January 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Updated 01 February 2018

PLO rejects US terror designation of Hamas chief

PLO rejects US terror designation of Hamas chief

GAZA CITY: The Palestine Liberation Organization on Thursday condemned the US decision to add Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas political chief, to its list of global terrorists.

“The PLO rejects and condemns the decision,” PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said on Fatah’s official Facebook page.

Erekat called for the rift between Fatah and Hamas to be healed to achieve national unity and “preserve the Palestinian national project.”

Haniyeh, 56, joins seven other Palestinian leaders on the US terrorism blacklist. The US State Department said Haniyeh had “close links” with the military wing of Hamas and described him as “a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the US since 1997.

Haniyeh’s inclusion on the terrorism blacklist means he will be subject to a travel ban and any financial assets he may have in the US will be frozen. American citizens and companies are also now forbidden from doing business with him.

Hamas immediately condemned the decision, saying it would only intensify a growing anti-American mood among Palestinians after the US declaration on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Haniyeh’s adviser, Taher Al-Nunu, said the reason for the US decision was “an attempt to engage Haniyeh on personal issues, in order to keep him away from addressing the conspiracy of the century.”

He told Arab News: “The Americans believe that they can harm the relationship that Haniyeh represents with the Arab countries, especially the relationship with Egypt and Jordan, but this step will not affect the continuation of those relations.”

Born in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, to parents who had fled as refugees from Ashkelon in Israel during the 1948 war, Haniyeh has long been regarded as a pragmatist, including in his attitude to Israel. He was educated in UN-run schools and graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a degree in Arabic literature. It was during his student days that he became involved in Hamas.

He was briefly imprisoned for taking part in protests during the first intifada in 1987. In 1988, he was jailed for six months and the following year, sentenced to three years. At the end of his sentence, the Israeli authorities deported him to Lebanon with 400 other activists.

Haniyeh and his comrades used their exile to gain worldwide exposure for Hamas.

Thanks to his friendship with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas, Haniyeh rose quickly through the ranks. In 2006, he became prime minister when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections, but was dismissed the following year by President Mahmoud Abbas at the height of the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah which saw Gaza separate politically from the West Bank.

But Haniyeh refused to acknowledge his sacking and continued to exercise authority in the Gaza Strip. He was elected political chief of Hamas last May, replacing Khaled Meshaal. A popular figure within Hamas, he tops the movement’s list of candidates for the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

Six of the other seven Palestinians on Washington’s terror list are members of Hamas. They include Yahya Al-Sinwar, co-founder of Hamas’ security operation, and two of the most prominent leaders of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shallah and Ziad Al-Nakhalah, who are both based in Beirut.

In a statement, Hamas accused the US of bias toward Israel.

“We call on the American administration to reverse these decisions and to stop these hostile policies and positions that will not change the facts,” the statement said.

Political columnist Mustafa Ibrahim said: “The American decision against Haniyeh will not affect Hamas much, since the United States has classified Hamas on the list of terrorism for years, but at the same time it is a clear expression of the US bias against the Palestinian cause in favor of Israel.

“The issuing of this decision also reflects the failure of Hamas to market itself in the international community, despite its presence and popularity among the Palestinian people, and the movement’s foreign policy is still restricted.”