Hamas must be taken off the European Union's terrorist list, a court ordered Wednesday, finding that it was not based on direct evidence of Hamas action.
EU officials downplayed the ruling, with a statement from the EU External Action Service saying it "is clearly based on procedural grounds and it does not imply an assessment by the Court of the substantive reasons for the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization."
EU institutions were examining the ruling and "will decide on the options open to them," the statement said. "They will, in due course, take appropriate remedial action, including any eventual appeal to the ruling. In case of an appeal the restrictive measures remain in place."
The General Court of the European Union, the EU's second highest court, said that the freeze on Hamas' assets will stay in place for three months to allow time for further review or to appeal the decision. The Quartet, which includes the EU, prohibits any engagement with Hamas until renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel, and accepts prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement rejecting the EU's rationale and demanded immediate action to correct the problem:
"We are not satisfied with the European Union's explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations is a 'technical matter'. The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith given that it is understood by all that Hamas - a murderous terrorist organization, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal - is an inseparable part of this list. We will continue to fight Hamas with strength and determination so that it never achieves this goal."
Hamas is recognized as terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, and other Western nations. It continues to plot attacks targeting Israeli civilians.
At same time the EU claims the delisting of Hamas is a mere "procedural" matter, the European Parliament backed the recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle," after multiple votes in EU member states, the Times of Israel reports.
The resolution accepts "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced" and passed overwhelmingly.