The U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism said Hamas and Hezbollah continued to destabilize the Middle East, described Israel as a “resolute” partner in counterterrorism and listed as “terrorist incidents” extremist settler attacks on Palestinians.
“Both Hamas and Hezbollah continued to play destabilizing roles in the Middle East,” said the executive summary of the report for 2011, which was released on Tuesday.
Much of the summary, which highlights what the authors believe to be the report’s most salient points, was devoted to al-Qaida, and it led with the assassination last year by U.S. forces of the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden.
Turning to the Middle East, the summary said Hezbollah’s “robust relationships with the regimes in Iran and Syria, involvement in illicit financial activity, continued engagement in international attack planning, and acquisition of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets continued to threaten U.S. interests in the region.”
The report also stated: “Meanwhile, Hamas retained its grip on Gaza, where it continued to stockpile weapons that pose a serious threat to regional stability. Moreover, Hamas and other Gaza-based groups continue to smuggle weapons, material, and people through the Sinai, taking advantage of the vast and largely ungoverned territory.”
The country report on Israel was unusually robust in its praise, for the first time describing Israel as a “resolute counterterrorism partner,” and noting, for instance, Israel’s cooperation with the international community in tracking financing for terrorists.
The country report also unequivocally listed settler attacks on Palestinians as “terrorist incidents,” scrubbing distinctions in previous reports between “settler violence” and terrorism. It listed several arson attacks on mosques that are believed to have been made by settlers.
The report continued to again list Kahane Chai, an extremist settler group, as a designated terrorist group, as well as five Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and two affiliates of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The report listed four state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
“Iran was known to use the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and terrorist insurgent groups to implement its foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and support terrorist and militant groups,” it said.
It also noted that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups continued to headquarter in Damascus, adding that Hamas left toward the end of 2011 because of the surging unrest in that country.
In listing American victims of terrorism last year, the report noted that one American was killed in Jerusalem on Sept. 23 and one was injured in Tel Aviv on Aug. 19.