The U.S. has added the leader of Hamas to its list of international terrorists, ratcheting up pressure on the movement despite its latest peace efforts. The move came amid the U.S.'s ongoing provocative measures in the region after Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Ismail Haniya, 55, who was named head of Hamas in May 2017, represents the more pragmatic wing of the movement, which said the U.S. move would not deter the group's "resistance."
In a separate statement, Hamas said the decision "demonstrates the American bias in favor of the Israeli occupation," while calling on the U.S. to reverse its "hostile policies and decisions" on the militant group.
The U.S. decision to add Hamas chief Haniya to its terrorism blacklist has drawn condemnation from Palestinian groups. "The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] rejects and deplores the U.S. Treasury Department's decision to include Haniya on its terrorism list," Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's executive committee, said yesterday.
Erekat urged Palestinian political forces to counter the move by "eliminating the causes of internal Palestinian division … with a view to safeguarding the Palestinian national cause and thwarting the plots being hatched against it."
Both the U.S. and Israel consider Hamas a terror organization, and its rule in Gaza was used as pretext by the two countries to legitimize aggression on the densely populated tiny territory.
Despite positive steps made by Palestinian factions in the last months, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would move the embassy to Jerusalem and put the 1995-dated Congress decision that recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital in force. This decision clearly contradicts his previous pledges on peace and obviously has deteriorated the peace talks.
Trump, prior to his election, promised that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which, de facto, means that the U.S. was going to recognize the city, considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, as Israel's capital. Since 1967, namely the six-day war, Israel has been holding the city under occupation and declared in 1980 that it was its capital. Although no country recognizes Israel's claim that its presence is legitimate and in accordance with U.N. resolutions call upon countries to move their diplomatic delegations out of the city, Israel has been expanding its control over the city in recent years by making new settlements and forcing the Palestinians to abandon their lands.
As part of peace efforts, Hamas declared its new program last May, disavowing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, distancing itself from aims of destroying Israel and accepting the 1967 borders of the Palestinian state without referring to Israel's legitimate statehood. Hamas also signaled its acceptance of a two-state solution through an alliance with Abbas' party. There were several reasons for the release of Hamas's new program; namely, its attempt to better relations with Egypt to combat the Daesh threat in north Sinai and to decrease internal pressure coming from Abbas and the international one coming from Egypt and Israel. At the same time the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also pressured Hamas for the reconciliation since the Gulf country wanted to break the influence of Turkey and Qatar as well as Iran in the tiny area.