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The Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords, the Dome of the Rock, and a map of the land they claim as Palestine (roughly, present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).
The Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords, the Dome of the Rock, and a map of the land they claim as Palestine (roughly, present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).

Hamas, acronym of Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (Arabic: حركة المقاومة الاسلامية, literally "Islamic Resistance Movement" and Arabic for 'zeal' or 'courage'), is a Palestinian Islamist paramilitary organization closely related to the Muslim Brotherhood. Its stated goal is to establish an Islamic theocracy in the area that is currently Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

It is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union, Canada, the United States, and Israel, and its attacks targeting Israeli civilians and other human rights abuses have been condemned by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and by Human Rights Watch. The organization is popular among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It also has a following in the West Bank, and, to a lesser extent, in other Middle Eastern countries and throughout the Palestinian diaspora, including within Israel. The movement's popularity stems from its paramilitary or "terrorist" activities, and from its provision of welfare and social services to the Palestinian poor. Hamas is notorious for its suicide bombings against civilians in busy urban areas in Israel, and is known for its generous payments to the families of suicide bombers.

Suicide attacks are an element of what Hamas sees as its asymmetric warfare against Israel. Because the group considers all Israelis to be participants in an illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and because Israel's policy of universal conscription implies that a majority of adults serve in either the Israeli military or the reserves at some point in their lives, Hamas does not distinguish between Israeli civilian and military targets. The failure to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, and the group's willingness to select civilian targets at random, has helped to earn it the label of "terrorist organization."

Hamas also fights a guerrilla war against the Israeli military and security forces in its effort to drive them from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and ultimately eliminate the state of Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. As well as suicide bombings, Hamas operatives plant bombs and carry out shooting attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The organization's goal to destroy Israel in its entirety has been used by the Israeli government to justify the assassination of its leaders. Assassinations and assassination attempts on Hamas leaders have been carried out in the past by the Israeli Air Force in the occupied territories, and by car bombings, shootings and even poison injections by Mossad agents outside Israel and the occupied territories.



Hamas regards the land that it calls Palestine, including all of present-day Israel, as an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims, and asserts that individual and community struggle (jihad) to wrest control of the land from Israel is a religious duty for all Muslims. This position is more radical than that of the PLO, which in 1988 recognized Israel's sovereignty. Hamas does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and refers to Israel as the "Zionist entity".

According to the Washington Institute, Hamas views the Arab-Israeli conflict as "a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism that can only be resolved by the destruction of the State of Israel." [1]
Hamas uses both political activities and violence to pursue its goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel and the secular Palestinian Authority. As of 2004, Hamas' strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. Israeli military operations during the Al Aqsa Intifada in 2002 put pressure on Hamas in the West Bank following several bombings in Israel for which Hamas claimed responsibility. Hamas has also engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections. In December 2004, one of Hamas' leaders stated that the group was seriously considering participating in the upcoming Palestinian Authority legislative elections, but the group boycotted PA Presidential elections as it had in the past.[2] In May 2005, Hamas won over one third of the municipal councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, seizing control of them from Fatah, which the BBC describes as "the biggest force in Palestinian politics." [3]
According to UPI, Israel supported Hamas starting in the late 1970s as a "counterbalance to the PLO". [4]


Hamas is an abbreviation of Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (Arabic: Islamic Resistance Movement), and the acronym is colloquial Arabic for "enthusiasm" or "zeal." Its military wing is known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (also known as the Ezzedeen-al-qassam brigades) (to commemorate Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the father of modern Arab resistance, killed by the British in 1935). Armed Hamas cells also sometimes refer to themselves as "Students of Ayyash," "Students of the Engineer," or "Yahya Ayyash Units," to commemorate Yahya Ayash, an early Hamas bomb-maker who was assassinated by Israel in 1996 for designing explosive devices used in operations that killed more than 50 Israelis.


The Hamas Covenant, written in 1988, states that the organization's goal is to "raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine," i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established), and to replace it with an Islamic Republic.

The thirty-six articles of the Covenant detail the movement's Islamist beliefs regarding the primacy of Islam in all aspects of life. The Covenant identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and considers its members to be Muslims who "fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors." Hamas describes resisting and quelling the enemy as the individual duty of every Muslim and prescribes revolutionary roles for all members of society; including men and women, professionals, scientists and students.

The slogan of Hamas is "God is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of God is the loftiest of its wishes." Hamas states that its objective is to support the oppressed and wronged and "to bring about justice and defeat injustice, in word and deed." Hamas believes that "the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (trust) consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day," and as such, the land cannot be negotiated away by any political leader. Hamas rejects "so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences" as incapable of realizing justice or restoring rights to the oppressed, believing "there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad."

The Hamas Covenant cites the long-discredited anti-Semitic fraud, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, describing it as "the embodiment of the Zionist plan to usurp Palestine". Hamas dismisses the Freemasons, Lions Club, and the Rotarians as organizations promoting "the interest of Zionism." It accuses those organizations, and the "Zionist invasion" in general, of being "behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds." Some Hamas members have alleged that Jewish people were responsible for the French Revolution, "Western colonialism," and both World Wars.

Top Hamas leaders have reiterated beliefs of Holocaust denial. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi contended that the Holocaust never occurred in the manner described by Western historians and that Zionists at one time supported and funded Nazi activities.


Hamas was funded directly and indirectly during the 1970s and 1980s by various states including Saudi Arabia. The political/charitable arm of Hamas was officially registered and recognized within Israel at this time: indeed Israel supported and encouraged Hamas' early growth in an effort to undermine the secular Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat. Hamas abstained from politics throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, concentrating on social issues such as exposing corruption, administration of waqf (trusts) and organizing community projects. Towards the mid-80s, however, the movement was taken over by a militant faction led by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

The acronym "Hamas" first appeared in 1987 in a leaflet accusing Israeli intelligence services of undermining the moral fiber of Palestinian youth as part of their recruitment of "collaborators." The use of violence by Hamas appeared almost contemporaneously with the First Intifada, beginning with the so-called punishment of collaborators, progressing to attacks against Israeli military targets and moving on to violence aimed at civilians. As its methods have changed over the last thirty years, so has its rhetoric, now effectively claiming that Israeli civilians are "military targets" by virtue of living in a state with a military draft.

According to the semi-official Hamas biography "Truth and existence," Hamas evolved through four main stages:

  1. 1967-1976: Construction of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip in the face of "oppressive Israeli rule";
  2. 1976-1981: Geographical expansion through participation in professional associations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and institution building, notably al-Mujamma` al-islami, al-Jam`iyya al-islamiyya, and the Islamic University in Gaza;
  3. 1981-1987: Political influence through establishment of the mechanisms of action and preparation for armed struggle;
  4. 1987: Founding of Hamas as the combatant arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and the launching of a continuing Jihad.

While this reflects the activities of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the organization in the West Bank developed differently, with less emphasis at the beginning on the creation or control of public institutions. The Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank constituted an integral part of the Jordanian Islamic movement, which for many years had been aligned with the Hashemite regime. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank represented a higher socio-economic profile, consisting of merchants, landowners, and middle-class officials and professionals. By the mid-1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood held a significant portion of the positions in West Bank religious institutions.

On January 26, 2004, senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi offered a 10-year truce, or hudna, in return for a complete withdrawal by Israel from the territories captured in the Six Day War, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin stated that the group could accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Rantissi confirmed that Hamas had come to the conclusion that it was "difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation." He said the truce could last 10 years, though "not more than 10 years." [5] (See Hudna)

On March 22, 2004, Yassin was assassinated in an Israeli missile strike. Rantissi replaced him as the leader of Hamas. On March 28, Rantissi stated in a speech given at the Islamic University of Gaza City that "America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God, and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon."

On April 17, 2004, Rantissi was also assassinated in an airstrike by the Israel Defense Forces, five hours after a fatal suicide bombing by Hamas. Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas in Syria, said Hamas should not disclose the name of its next leader in Gaza. [6]

On April 18, 2004, Hamas secretly selected a new leader in the Gaza Strip, fearing he will be killed if his identity is made public. (NYT). However, Israel believes that the new leader is Mahmoud al-Zahar; the second-in-command, Ismail Haniya; and third-in-command, Sa'id A-Siyam. [7]

As of 2004, Israeli military and intelligence sources believed that the Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been significantly weakened by Israeli military operations. Israeli sources have noted that no prominent attacks have been claimed by West Bank-based Hamas members (whereas bombings by the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades continued), even though the Hamas leadership had reputedly ordered an escalation of suicide attacks after the assassinations of Yassin and Rantissi. The West Bank has been under increased Israeli military control since Operation Defensive Shield was launched in April 2002, which severely limited the mobility and organization of the remaining Hamas membership.

In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, Hamas is generally seen as a major force, rivalling Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

In 2004, in a prelude to the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces carried out a number of military attacks on Gaza cities and refugees camps, seeking to draw out and kill Hamas-affiliated gunmen. Awareness of high casualties during such incursions has led the Hamas leadership to instruct its activists to avoid putting themselves needlessly in the line of fire.

In September 2004, Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon said that Israel would "deal with ... those who support terrorism," including those in "terror command posts in Damascus." On September 26, 2004, Hamas guerrilla leader Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria. Khalil was described variously as "mid-level," "senior," a "distinguished member," and "believed to be in charge of the group's military wing outside the Palestinian territories." [8]

Although the Israeli government offered no official confirmation, anonymous Israeli officials acknowledged responsibility for the attack. In a statement released in Gaza, Hamas threatened to target Israelis abroad in retaliation. [9][10].

On 12 September 2005 Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Gaza Strip and declared an official end to Israeli military rule in Gaza, although since Israel still retains control of the airspace and sea the Palestinan Authority argues the occupation is on-going.

Hamas claimed that the withdrawal was a victory for their armed struggle and pledged to liberate all Palestinian land. Israel had previously evacuated and dismantled Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas guerrillas, fighters from other factions and Palestinian civilians streamed into the evacuated and dismantled settlements and raised Palestinian and Hamas flags and scavenged in the rubble. Some synagogues, which were left standing, were burnt down.

The Israeli government now claims the onus is on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Hamas and other "terrorist groups" in Gaza. The West Bank remains under Israeli occupation, and populated by Jewish settlers.

On 24 September 2005, a transport carrying Hamas rockets apparently exploded during one of the group's parades through Gaza, killing civilian spectators. Hamas claimed the parade had been attacked by an Israeli airstrike. The Palestinian Authority and Israel both denounced Hamas's claim as false. The P.A. demanded that Hamas end its use of those weapons.


The wreckage of a commuter bus in West Jerusalem after a suicide bombing by Hamas on Tuesday, 18 June, 2002. The blast killed 19 people.  Hamas invented the method of targeting civilian mass transit system via suicide bombers in order to maximize fear, terror and casualties.
The wreckage of a commuter bus in West Jerusalem after a suicide bombing by Hamas on Tuesday, 18 June, 2002. The blast killed 19 people.
Hamas invented the method of targeting civilian mass transit system via suicide bombers in order to maximize fear, terror and casualties.

Hamas militants, especially those in the Ezzedeen-al-qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets. These include the Passover massacre in March 2002, in which 30 people were killed in a terrorist attack while celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover; the Patt junction massacre (19 dead); the Jerusalem bus 20 massacre in November 2002 (11 dead); the Jerusalem bus 2 massacre in August 2003 (23 dead); and many more.

The first suicide bombing was in response to the 1994 masacre in Hebron of 29 Muslim worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque by settler Baruch Goldstein. Hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed in Hamas suicide attacks between the 2000 and 2004. Hamas has used female suicide bombers, including a mother of six and a mother of two children under the age of 10. Hamas claims that all suicide bombers volunteer for what Hamas terms "martyrdom operations" however an anonymous Israeli military source claims that the one of the women was forced to commit these acts under threat of what is termed an "honor killing". [11][12]

Hamas has also attacked Israeli military and security forces targets (mostly inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip and occasionally inside Israel), suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.

Hamas also constantly shelled the Gush Katif Israeli settlements in Gaza with homemade mortars. So far, about 5500 (as for Jul 2005) mortar shells have landed in Gush Katif, killing 3 people.

Since 2002, Hamas has used homemade Qassam rockets to hit Israeli towns in the Negev, such as Sderot. The introduction of the Qassam-2 rocket has allowed Hamas to reach large Israeli cities such as Ashkelon, bringing great concern to the Israeli populace and many attempts by the Israeli military to stop the proliferation and use of the rockets.

Hamas runs many relief and education programs. These programs are viewed variously as part of a sincere social development agenda, an integrated para-state policy, as propaganda and recruitment exercises, or both.

In addition to its paramilitary activities, Hamas funds a number of charitable activities, primarily in the Gaza Strip. These include religious institutions, medical facilities, and social needs of the area's residents. The work of Hamas in these fields is in addition to that provided by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). The charitable trust Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was accused in December 2001 of funding Hamas.

Hamas has an unknown number of hard-line members and tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers. It receives funding from Palestinian expatriates, from the Islamist regime in Iran, and from private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and in other Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe, North America and South America. Like Hezbollah, Hamas has been known to use illicit drug sales to raise funds for its operations.

Hamas is believed to operate dozens of websites. A current listing can be found at Internet Haganah (External link below). The main website of Hamas provides translations of official communiques and propaganda in Persian, Urdu, Malay, Russian, English, and Arabic.

In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority is reportedly losing control to Hamas, especially in the Jabalia refugee camp and the neighboring town of Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip, the Dir al-Balah area in the center of the Gaza Strip, Abasan to the south of it and the Dahaniyeh region in the south.

Legal action against Hamas

In 2004, a federal court in the United States found Hamas liable in a civil lawsuit for the 1996 murders of Yaron and Efrat Ungar near Beit Shemesh, Israel. Hamas has been ordered to pay the families of the Ungar's $116 million. On July 5, 2004, the court issued a default judgment against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO regarding the Ungar's claim that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO provide safe haven to Hamas.

On August 20, 2004, three Palestinians, one a naturalized American citizen, were charged with a "lengthy racketeering conspiracy to provide money for terrorist acts in Israel". The indicted include Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, senior member of Hamas, believed to be currently in Damascus, Syria and considered a fugitive. The two others — Muhammad Hamid Khalil Salah of Chicago, Illinois and Abdelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar of Alexandria, Va. — were arrested on August 19. The indictment states that Salah received $50,000 which was used over the course of the following three months to help Hamas finance eight terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of numerous Israeli civilians [13](Washington Times).

List of notable Hamas members

  • West Bank
    • Mohammad Taha - co founder of Hamas (arrested by Israel, March 2003)
    • Qawasameh clan in Hebron - provided local leaders and suicide bombers to Hamas (some members killed by Israeli military operationa, one arrested, 2002-2003)
    • Yahya Ayyash - the "Muhandees", a senior bomb-maker (killed by Israeli military operation, 1996)
  • Arab and Muslim countries

See also

External links

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