Many people in the West Bank don't approve of Hamas' methods, but that doesn't change their objection to the US decision to place Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on its terror list.

Born in 1962 as the son of a fisherman in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh joined Hamas in 1987 during the First Intifada and became the head of the group in 2017.
Born in 1962 as the son of a fisherman in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh joined Hamas in 1987 during the First Intifada and became the head of the group in 2017. (AA)

"All Palestinians who resist against the Israeli occupation is a terrorist in their account," said a Palestinian man from the West Bank, referring the US move placing the Hamas leader on its list of “global terrorists”.

On January 31, the US Treasury Department announced it had designated Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a terrorist, drawing criticism from the Palestinian people, who said the move would harm the ongoing peace efforts.

“I support Fatah, which is the major party in Palestine, and don’t like movements like Hamas who sometimes target Israeli civilians,” said Sulaiman, 66, who is a taxi driver in the West Bank.

Fatah's approach in the West Bank to the Israeli occupation is somehow different from the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who mainly support Hamas. Fatah has been more inclined towards peace talks with Israel, and has been criticised for this reason by Hamas.

Palestine’s rival parties Fatah and Hamas have been moving towards unification for the first time since the 2006 elections, which Hamas won, and which Fatah rejected. After 2006, Fatah kept ruling the West Bank as Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, which has been the target of many Israeli attacks. Israel also recognises Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

66-year-old Sulaiman, who doesn't want to be seen on camera, is a taxi driver in Ramallah.
66-year-old Sulaiman, who doesn't want to be seen on camera, is a taxi driver in Ramallah. (TRTWorld)

“They [the US] are strong supporters of the occupation. We are one of the few people in the world now living under occupation, which is getting bigger and bigger every day with expanding illegal Israeli settlement on our land,” said Sulaiman.

Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law. The US, Israel's strongest ally, has also accepted them as illegal.

They are also the biggest stumbling blocks to peace efforts, as they are built on land that Palestinians claim as part of their future state.

“Our peace is the only thing to protect, and that's why we resist against the Israeli occupation and I’m proud of my people doing this,” Sulaiman added.

Similar reactions to the US decision on Haniyeh have come from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Mostafa, 39, works for a hotel in Ramallah where he lives with his wife, his two children and his parents. 

He said that he wanted to see his daughters, and to enter al Aqsa Mosque and the other holy sites there.

“Trump says Haniyeh is a global terrorist. What about the rest of Palestine?” questioned Mostafa.

“I want to see my daughters carrying Palestine flags and entering the holy sites in al Quds,” he said. 

The young generation also shares Sulaiman’s opinions.

“Because they want everything in Palestine,” a 19-year-old student at the Birzeit University answered our question of why the US listed Haniyeh as a terrorist.

Khalid, who studies civil engineering at Birzeit University in Ramallah, said that despite his young age, he witnessed mass destruction by Israeli forces in the 2014 Gaza war, also known as the 50-day war.

“It is a shame for the United States, who claims to be the defender of democracy and freedom, to side with the occupation and take decisions against a two-state solution,” he said.

Besides his studies, Khalid works at a small grocery shop in central Ramallah. Even though he doesn't trust the US or Israel, he thinks that the only way for Palestine to achieve freedom is through negotiations, and doesn't favour Hamas' tactics to fight against Israel.

“They [Israel] have powerful weapons, but we don’t. There is not a way that we can have our own state without negotiations and without support from the international community,” Khalid said.

At least 2,300 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed during Israel's last major offensive in 2014 in the Gaza Strip, according to data by the United Nations.

The US move to list Haniyeh as a terrorist came after Trump's decision last December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which sparked worldwide protests. 

The Palestinian group Hamas was designated as a terrorist group by the US in 1997. Ismail Haniyeh has been one of its active figures since then. And in May 2017, he was elected as the head of Hamas.