Australia to list Hamas and US far-right group as terrorists

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Thursday said it had added the U.S.-based far-right extremist group National Socialist Order and planned to add the entirety of the Palestinian group Hamas to its list of outlawed terrorist organizations as concerns rise about radicalized children.

The National Socialist Order, formerly known as Atomwaffen Division, joins Islamist groups Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras al-Din in being added to the list, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.

Hamas’ military wing, Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been listed as a terrorist organization since 2003.

The National Socialist Order, which advocates a global “race war” and the collapse of democratic societies, joined the list on Thursday, bringing the number of outlawed groups to 28.

The two Islamist groups, both active in the Syrian civil war, will be listed in April.

Andrews has written to state governments to finalize the listing of Hamas as soon as possible.

“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbing, and there is no place in Australia for such views,” Andrews said.

“It’s vital that our laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organizations that plan, finance and carry out these acts,” she added.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison for the Hamas decision.

“I thank my friend, Australian P.M. Scott Morrison, for acting on this issue after the conversation we had on this important matter. It is another important step in the global fight against terror,” Bennett said in a statement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also thanked Australian Ambassador to Israel Paul Griffiths for what he described as a “significant step” in Israel’s international effort to curtail terrorist organizations.

Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said the Hamas listing made clear Australia’s “absolute rejection of hatred and terrorism.”

“There is absolutely no doubt that Hamas in its entirety meets the definition of terrorist organization,” Leibler said in a statement, adding that the decision aligns Australia with the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, a national coalition of Australians who support Palestinian rights, disagreed with Hamas’ political wing being designated a terrorist organization.

“The government has failed in its duty of searching for a peaceful solution and has shown it applies one set of rules to Palestine and another to Israel,” Network President Bishop George Browning said.

The designation does nothing to advance the cause of peace and will only create more suffering for the 2 million people currently living under a 15-year Israeli blockade, the Network said in a statement.

The National Socialist Order is only the third far-right group to be designated by Australia as a terrorist organization.

The Base, a neo-Nazi white supremacist group formed in the United States in 2018, was listed in December and the British-based Sonnenkrieg Division was listed in August.

Mike Burgess, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the nation’s main domestic spy agency, said last week that pandemic restrictions in Australia had sent online radicalization “into overdrive” in recent years as isolated people spent more time online.

The proportion of new counter-terrorism investigations involving minors had increased from to less than 3% to 15% in only a few years, Burgess said in his annual threat assessment.

At the end of 2021, minors represented more than half of the spy agency’s priority counter-terrorism investigations, he said.

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Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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