Why aren’t the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 attack designated as terrorist organizations? 


On Oct. 7, a horrific act of terrorism claimed the lives of 1,200 people in Southern Israel, with over 240 others taken hostage into the Gaza Strip. Among those killed were at least 32 Americans, with multiple others still held captive in Gaza.  

While the primary terrorist organization leading the massacre was Hamas, six other Iranian-backed terror groups participated in the carnage as well. Despite the American blood on their hands, some of these groups are still not designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the U.S. State Department, which provides them with an unacceptable level of operational freedom.  

This should be rectified forthwith. Not only would an FTO designation ensure that these groups, their members and their allies face the most crippling and wide-ranging sanctions possible, it would also serve as a powerful declaration that the United States stands firm in its resolve that those responsible for Oct. 7 will not escape justice. 

Among the groups involved in this appalling act that are already classified as FTOs are Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. That leaves three groups — the Popular Resistance Committees, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) — undesignated.  

All three groups clearly meet the criteria for an FTO designation, namely Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and Section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989.  

In fact, some of these organizations have for years faced calls to be designated as FTOs, such as the Popular Resistance Committees, the third-largest terror group in Gaza. One of the group’s notable attacks came in 2003 when it detonated a 200-pound bomb beside a convoy in Gaza that killed three American security guards and injured a U.S. diplomat. On multiple occasions, spokesmen for the organization explicitly acknowledged that it receives financial and military support from Tehran and Hezbollah.  

Another of the groups, the Marxist DFLP, is infamous for the 1974 Ma’alot massacre, where over two dozen Israeli schoolchildren and teachers were mercilessly killed. According to Phillip Smyth, writing in West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center, the DFLP has been deepening its ties with Iran and its proxies since the early 2010s. Although the DFLP was designated as an FTO in 1997, it was removed in 1999 “primarily because of the absence of terrorist activity.” Given its involvement in the October 7th massacre, it’s clear that the DFLP once again meets the criteria for designation. 

Lastly, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, established in 2006 as a splinter group from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, has demonstrated through videos on its Telegram channels its active participation in the Oct. 7 massacre. Like the other organizations on this list, the Mujahideen Movement has expressed gratitude and allegiance to the Iranian regime. In 2022, for example, its secretary general, As’ad Abu Shari’a, stated that “Our relationship with Hezbollah and Iran in terms of logistical and military support, among others, is unique. If you look at the Arab and Islamic countries, is there anyone other than the Islamic Republic that sponsors the resistance program in Palestine, and strives for the military liberation of Jerusalem? There is none.” 

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An FTO designation would allow victims of the Oct. 7 attack and their families to seek civil damages due to material support provided to the groups involved in the massacre; in addition, it would enforce strict immigration measures against members of these groups. This would prevent their entry into the United States and could lead to the deportation of those already present. Although the DFLP and Palestinian Mujahideen Movement are already labeled as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the Treasury Department, which mainly targets financial aspects of terrorism, this label lacks the above-mentioned consequences that are essential in the United States’ efforts to combat terrorism. 

It’s high time for the State Department to designate each and every perpetrator of the Oct. 7 massacre as a foreign terrorist ogranization. The American people, especially the families of the victims, deserve accountability and justice for the tremendous loss of life suffered on that fateful day. 

Eitan Fischberger is an international relations and Middle East analyst. His work has been published in City Journal, National Review, Tablet Magazine, and more. Find him @EFischberger 

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