The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is to come off the EU’s blacklist of terror organisations.
That is not a political decision by the European Union, which says it still considers Hamas to be a terrorist group.
Rather it is a ruling from the General Court of the European Union, the EU’s second highest court – which said the EU had no grounds to include the organisation on the list as the decision was based on media reports not considered analysis.
Hamas has hailed the court ruling as a “victory” for Palestinian rights.
“Hamas is a movement of resistance and it has a natural right according to all international laws and standards to resist the occupation,” said the movement’s Deputy Chief Moussa Abu Marzouk.
Israel has criticised the move, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Europe had “learned nothing” from the Holocaust.
He called on the EU to keep Hamas on its terror list, describing it as a “murderous organisation” committed to Israel’s destruction.
PM Netanyahu: We're not satisfied w/ the EU's explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist orgs is a 'technical matter'>— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 17, 2014
The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith >— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 17, 2014
It is understood by all that Hamas is a murderous terrorist org, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal. >— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 17, 2014
The Israeli Foreign Ministry noted that the court had stressed it was not judging the substantive arguments about Hamas, rather the procedure.
“We believe that the Europeans agree with us and many others in the international community that Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is the Europeans who put Hamas on the terror list in the first place,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who visited Gaza last month, has said the decision will be studied carefully.
The Commission says the EU will consider making an appeal.
A European freeze on funding for Hamas remains in place for three months or until an eventual appeal is heard.