Hamas rejects US official’s demands to designate movement as ‘terrorist’ group

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Hamas movement rejected statements made by US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Tuesday, who urged the United Nations to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and placed full blame of the dire humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip on Hamas.

“We need to pressure Hamas to end its tyranny over the people of Gaza. We should condemn Hamas in this council’s resolutions and statements,” Haley reportedly said, adding that “we should designate Hamas as a terrorist organization in a resolution, with consequences for anyone who continues to support it.”

“Make no mistake, Israel did not cause the problems in Gaza, even though it is often the usual suspect around here,” Haley said. However, the decade-long Israeli siege of the small Palestinian territory, along with three devastating Israeli offensives, have prompted the United Nations to warn that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 due to Israel’s policies in the enclave.

Hamas rejected the statement, calling it “dangerous” and contributing to the “growing incitement campaign” against the movement, referring to the diplomatic crisis plaguing the Gulf countries after Saudi Arabia spearheaded a siege on Qatar, accused of funding “terrorism” due to their support of Hamas.

Hamas called demands to consider the group as a “terrorist organization” a “despicable” and “racist act.”

It represents “a complete bias toward the Zionist entity (Israel) and a denial of Palestinians’ rights to resist under occupation.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement that Israel had not taken any steps to curb illegal Israeli settlement expansions in the occupied Palestinian territory since the UN had passed Resolution 2334, which had urged Israel to “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” and underscored their illegality under international law.

“There has been substantial increase in settlement-related announcements as compared with the previous reporting period, with plans for nearly 4,000 housing units moving forward and 2,000 tenders issued,” Mladenov said.

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) released data on Monday showing a 70 percent rise in construction of settlements during the past year compared to previous year, with Peace Now warning of increasing numbers in the coming months.

Earlier this month, an Israeli minister presented a plan to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, advocating for 67,000 additional illegal settlement housing units to be built in the West Bank to deal with Israel’s housing crisis.

The plan was promoted amid already rising concerns over Israel’s other plans to advance some 2,500 illegal settlement housing units across the West Bank, including building units in in Amichai, Israel’s first new official settlement in more than two decades.

Meanwhile, Mladenov also warned against the deteriorating situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, saying that the two million residents of the territory “can no longer be held hostage.”

“Gaza is a tinderbox,” Mladenov said. “If and when it explodes, it will have devastating consequences for the population and derail all efforts at advancing peace.”