Hamas

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Islamic Resistance Movement
حركة المقاومة الإسلامية
Chairman of the Political BureauIsmail Haniyeh
Deputy ChairmanSaleh al-Arouri X
Leader in the Gaza StripYahya Sinwar
Military commanderMohammed Deif
Deputy military commanderMarwan Issa
Founder
... and others
FoundedDecember 10, 1987 (1987-12-10)
Split fromMuslim Brotherhood
HeadquartersGaza City, Gaza Strip
Military wingIzz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
Membership20,000–25,000[8]
Ideology
ReligionSunni Islam
Political allianceAlliance of Palestinian Forces
Colours  Green
Palestinian Legislative Council
74 / 132
Party flag
Hamas
HeadquartersGaza City, Gaza Strip
AlliesState allies:

Non-state allies:

OpponentsState opponents:

Non-state opponents:

Battles and wars
Designated as a terrorist group by

Hamas,[d] an acronym of its official name, Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement)[47][e], is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist[48] political and military movement governing parts of the occupied Gaza Strip.[49]

Hamas was founded by Palestinian imam and activist Ahmed Yassin in 1987, after the outbreak of the First Intifada against the Israeli occupation. It emerged from his 1973 Mujama al-Islamiya Islamic charity affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.[50] In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election by campaigning on Palestinian armed resistance against the Israeli occupation,[51] thus securing a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council.[52] In 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from rival Palestinian faction Fatah,[53][54] which it has governed since separately from the Palestinian National Authority. This was followed by an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip with Egyptian support, and multiple wars with Israel, including in 2008–09, 2012, 2014, and 2021. The ongoing 2023 war began after Hamas launched an attack, killing both civilians and soldiers, and taking hostages back to Gaza.[55][56][57] The attack has been described as the biggest military setback for Israel since the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, which Israel has responded to in an ongoing ground invasion of Gaza.[58]

Hamas promotes Palestinian nationalism in an Islamic context.[59] While initially seeking a state in all of Mandatory Palestine, Hamas began acquiescing to 1967 borders in the agreements it signed with Fatah in 2005, 2006 and 2007[60][61][62] In 2017, Hamas released a new charter that supported a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders without recognizing Israel.[63][64][65][66][67] Hamas's repeated offers of a truce (for a period of 10–100 years[68]) based on the 1967 borders are seen by many as consistent with a two-state solution,[69][70][71][72] while others say that Hamas retains the long-term objective of establishing one state in former Mandatory Palestine.[73][74] The 1988 Hamas charter was widely described as antisemitic.[75][76][77] The revised 2017 Hamas Charter maintained that Hamas's struggle was with Zionists, not Jews.[78][79][80] Hamas is widely popular in Palestinian society largely due to its anti-Israeli stance.[81][82][83][84]

Hamas has carried out attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including suicide bombings and indiscriminate rocket attacks.[85] These actions have led human rights groups to accuse it of war crimes, and Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Paraguay, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union[40] to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. In 2018, a motion at the United Nations to condemn Hamas was rejected.[f][87][88]

Etymology

Hamas is an acronym of the Arabic phrase حركة المقاومة الإسلامية or Ḥarakah al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement". This acronym, HMS, was later glossed in the 1988 Hamas Covenant[89] by the Arabic word ḥamās (حماس) which itself means "zeal", "strength", or "bravery".[90]

History

Origins

When Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967, the Muslim Brotherhood members there did not take active part in the resistance, preferring to focus on social-religious reform and on restoring Islamic values.[91] This outlook changed in the early 1980s, and Islamic organizations became more involved in Palestinian politics.[92] The driving force behind this transformation was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee from Al-Jura.[92] Of humble origins and quadriplegic,[92] he became one of the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders in Gaza. His charisma and conviction brought him a loyal group of followers, upon whom he depended for everything from feeding him and transporting him to and from events to communicating his strategy to the public.[93] In 1973, Yassin founded the social-religious charity Mujama al-Islamiya ("Islamic center") in Gaza as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.[94][95]

Israeli authorities in the 1970s and 1980s showed indifference to al-Mujama al-Islamiya. They viewed it as a religious cause that was significantly less militant against Israel than Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization; many also believed that the infighting between Islamist organizations and the PLO would lead to the latter's weakening.[50][96][97][98][99] Thus, the Israeli government did not intervene in fights between PLO and Islamist forces.[50] Israeli officials disagree on how much governmental indifference (or even support) of these disputes led to the rise of Islamism in Palestine. Some, such as Arieh Spitzen, have argued that "even if Israel had tried to stop the Islamists sooner, he doubts it could have done much to curb political Islam, a movement that was spreading across the Muslim world." Others, including Israel's religious affairs official in Gaza, Avner Cohen, believed that the indifference to the situation fueled Islamism's rise, stating it was "Israel's creation" and failure.[50] Others attribute the rise of the group to state sponsors, including Iran.[50] In 2018, The Intercept published an article claiming that "Israeli officials admit they helped start the group".[100]

In 1984, Yassin was arrested after the Israelis found out that his group collected arms,[50] but released in May 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange.[101][102] He continued to expand the reach of his charity in Gaza.[50] Following his release, he set up al-Majd (an acronym for Munazamat al-Jihad wa al-Da'wa), headed by former student leader Yahya Sinwar and Rawhi Mushtaha, tasked with handling internal security and hunting local informants for the Israeli intelligence services.[103][104] At about the same time, he ordered former student leader Salah Shehade to set up al-Mujahidun al-Filastiniun (Palestinian fighters), but its militants were quickly rounded up by Israeli authorities and had their arms confiscated.[105][g]

The idea of Hamas began to take form on December 10, 1987, when several members of the Brotherhood[h] convened the day after an incident in which an Israeli army truck crashed into a car at a Gaza checkpoint, killing four Palestinian day-workers, the impetus of the First Intifada. The group met at Yassin's house to strategize on how to maximize the incident's impact in spreading nationalist sentiments and sparking public demonstrations.[4] A leaflet issued on December 14 calling for resistance is considered its first public intervention, though the name Hamas itself was not used until January 1988.[4]

Hamas was formally recognized by the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood after a key meeting in Amman in February 1988.[106] Yassin was not directly connected to the organization but he gave it his blessing.[107]

Creating Hamas as an entity distinct from the Muslim Brotherhood was a matter of practicality; the Muslim Brotherhood refused to engage in violence against Israel,[108] but without participating in the intifada, the Islamists tied to it feared they would lose support to their rivals the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PLO. They also hoped that by keeping the militant activities of Hamas separate, Israel would not interfere with the Muslim Brotherhood's social work.[i]

To many Palestinians, Hamas represented a more authentic engagement with their national aspirations. This perception arose because Hamas offered an Islamic interpretation of the original goals of the secular PLO, focusing on armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine. This approach contrasted with the PLO's eventual acceptance of territorial compromise, which involved settling for a smaller portion of Mandatory Palestine.[111] Hamas's formal establishment came a month after the PLO and other intifada leaders issued a 14-point declaration in January 1988 advocating for the coexistence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.[112]

In August 1988, Hamas published the Hamas Charter, wherein it defined itself as a chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood and stated its desire to establish "an Islamic state throughout Palestine".[113]

First Intifada

Hamas's first combat operation against Israel came in spring 1989 as it abducted and killed Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon, two Israeli soldiers.[114] At the time, Shehade and Sinwar were incarcerated in Israeli prisons and Hamas had set up a new group, Unit 101, headed by Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose modus operandi was to abduct soldiers.[115] The discovery of Sasportas's body triggered, in the words of Jean-Pierre Filiu, "an extremely violent Israeli response"; hundreds of Hamas leaders and activists, including Yassin, were arrested.[116] Hamas was outlawed on September 28, 1989.[117] This mass detention of activists, together with a further wave of arrests in 1990, effectively dismantled Hamas and, devastated, it was forced to adapt;[118][119] its command system became regionalized to make its operative structure more diffuse,[84] and to minimize the chances of being detected.[120]

Anger following the Temple Mount killings in October 1990, in which Muslim worshippers had tried to prevent Jewish extremists from placing a foundation stone for the Third Temple on the Temple Mount and Israeli police used live fire against Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound, killing 17, caused Hamas to intensify its campaign of abductions. Hamas declared every Israeli soldier a target[121] and called for a "jihad against the Zionist enemy everywhere, in all fronts and every means."[122]

Hamas reorganized its units from al-Majd and al-Mujahidun al-Filastiniun into a military wing called the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades led by Yahya Ayyash in 1991 or 1992.[123][j] The name comes from the militant Palestinian nationalist leader Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam who fought against the British and whose death in 1935 sparked the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.[129] Its members sometimes called themselves "Students of Ayyash", "Students of the Engineer", "Yahya Ayyash Units",[121] or "Yahyia Ayyash's Disciples".[130]

Ayyash, an engineering graduate from Birzeit University, was a skillful bomb maker and greatly improved Hamas's striking capability,[131] earning him the nickname al-Muhandis ("the Engineer"). He is thought to have been one of the driving forces in Hamas's use of suicide bombings, reportedly arguing: "We paid a high price when we used only slingshots and stones. We need to exert more pressure, make the cost of the occupation that much more expensive in human lives, that much more unbearable."[132][133] Until his assassination by Shin Bet in 1996, almost all bombs used on suicide missions were constructed by him.[134]

In December 1992, Israel responded to the abduction and killing of Nissim Toledano, a border policeman, by exiling 415 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Southern Lebanon, at the time occupied by Israel.[135][136] There, Hamas established contacts with Hezbollah, Palestinians living in refugee camps, and learned how to construct suicide and car bombs.[137][136] In addition to the deportations, Israel imposed a two-week curfew on the Gaza Strip, which cost the economy approximately $1,810,000 per day.[138] The deportees were allowed to return nine months later.[137] The deportation provoked international condemnation and a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the action.[139][140] Hamas ordered two car bombs in retaliation for the deportation.[122]

In April 1993, Hamas launched its first suicide attack, the Mehola Junction bombing, near the Mehola settlement in the West Bank.[141] The attacker drove his car between two buses–one military and one civilian.[142] Only the driver and an Arab worker were killed in the attack.[141] The bomb design was flawed, but Hamas soon learned how to manufacture more lethal bombs.[143]

In the first years of the Intifada, Hamas violence was restricted to Palestinians; collaborators with Israel, and people it defined as "moral deviants," that is, drug dealers and prostitutes known to enjoy ties with Israeli criminal networks,[144] or for engaging in loose behavior, such as seducing women in hairdressing salons with alcohol, behavior Hamas considered was encouraged by Israeli agents.[k] Hamas leaders likened their rooting out of collaborators to what the French resistance did with Nazi collaborators in World War II. In 1992 alone they executed more than 150.[146] In Western media this was reported as typical "intercommunal strife" among Arabs.[144]

Hamas's actions in the First Intifada expanded its popularity. In 1989, fewer than 3% of the Palestinians in Gaza, where Hamas was most popular, supported Hamas.[118] In the days leading up to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, 16.6% of Gazans and 10% of West Bank Palestinians identified politically with Hamas[118]—a number that still paled in comparison to Fatah, which enjoyed the support of 45% of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.[147]

Oslo years

The Oslo process began in September 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles, known as the Oslo I Accord.[148] This led to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), which was backed by Arafat but strongly opposed by Hamas.[149] The PA was staffed mainly by members of Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.[149] The peaceful posture adopted by Hamas's rivals created an opportunity to set itself apart as the representative of the resistance movement.[150]

Hamas first began suicide attacks specifically targeting civilians in response to the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre carried out by the American-Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein, who on 25 February 1994, during Ramadan, killed 29 unarmed civilians by throwing hand grenades and firing at a group of worshippers during prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.[151][152] There was a strong sense that the Israeli military was complicit in the massacre because Goldstein wore military fatigues during his attack and carried an assault rifle issued by the IDF, the nearby IDF forces failed to intervene to stop the attack, and indeed an additional 19 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the riots that ensued in protest of the massacre.[152] Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin condemned the massacre, but refused to withdraw Jewish settlers from Hebron, fearing a violent confrontation with the settler community.[122] Hamas announced that if Israel did not discriminate between "fighters and civilians", then it would be "forced ... to treat the Zionists in the same manner. Treating like with like is a universal principle."[153]

Prior to the Hebron massacre, Hamas did not deliberately attack civilian targets.[151] But following the massacre, it felt that it no longer had to distinguish between military and civilian targets. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank, Sheikh Ahmed Haj Ali, later argued that "had there not been the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, there would have been no suicide bombings." Al-Rantisi in an interview in 1998 stated that the suicide attacks "began after the massacre committed by the terrorist Baruch Goldstein and intensified after the assassination of Yahya Ayyash."[154] Musa Abu Marzouk put the blame for the escalation on the Israelis: "We were against targeting civilians ... After the Hebron massacre we determined that it was time to kill Israel's civilians ... we offered to stop if Israel would, but they rejected that offer."[155]

According to Matti Steinberg, former advisor to Shin Bet and one of Israel's leading experts on Hamas, the massacre laid to rest an internal debate within Hamas on the usefulness of indiscriminate violence: "In the Hamas writings there is an explicit prohibition against indiscriminate harm to helpless people. The massacre at the mosque released them from this taboo and introduced a dimension of measure for measure, based on citations from the Koran."[122]

The aftermath of the 1994 Dizengoff Street bus bombing in Tel Aviv

On April 6, a suicide bomber blew up his car at a crowded bus stop in Afula, killing eight Israelis and injuring 34.[156][152] An additional five Israelis were killed and 30 injured as a Palestinian detonated himself on a bus in Hadera a week later.[157] Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks.[157] The attacks may have been timed to disrupt negotiations between Israel and PLO on the implementation of the Oslo I Accord.[156] A bomb on a bus in downtown Tel Aviv in October 1994, killed 22 and injured 45.[158]

In late December 1995, Hamas promised the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cease military operations. But it was not to be as Shin Bet assassinated Ayyash, the 29-year-old leader of the al-Qassam Brigades on January 5, 1996, using a booby-trapped cellphone given to Ayyash by his uncle who worked as an informer.[159] Nearly 100,000 Gazans, about 11% of the total population, marched in his funeral.[159] Hamas resumed its campaign of suicide bombings which had been dormant for a good part of 1995 to retaliate the assassination.[160]

In September 1997, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal who lived in Jordan.[161] Two Mossad agents entered Jordan on false Canadian passports and sprayed Mashal with a nerve agent on a street in Amman.[161] They were caught however and King Hussein threatened to put the agents on trial unless Israel provided Mashal with an antidote and released Yassin.[161] Israel obliged and the antidote saved Mashal's life.[161] Yassin was returned to Gaza where he was given a hero's welcome with banners calling him the "sheikh of the Intifada". Yassin's release temporarily boosted Hamas' popularity and at a press conference Yassin declared: "There will be no halt to armed operations until the end of the occupation ... we are peace-seekers. We love peace. And we call on them [the Israelis] to maintain peace with us and to help us in order to restore our rights by peace."[162]

Although the suicide attacks by the al-Qassam Brigades and other groups violated the 1993 Oslo accords (which Hamas opposed[163]), Arafat was reluctant to pursue the attackers and may have had inadequate means to do so.[160]

While the Palestinians were used to the idea that their young were willing to die for the struggle, the idea that they would strap explosives to their bodies and blow themselves up was a new and not well-supported development.[155] A poll taken in 1996 after the wave of suicide bombings Hamas carried out to retaliate Israel's assassination of Ayyash showed that most 70% opposed the tactic and 59% called for Arafat to take action to prevent further attacks.[164] In the political arena Hamas continued to trail far behind its rival Fatah; 41% trusted Arafat in 1996 but only 3% trusted Yassin.[165]

In 1999, Hamas was banned in Jordan, reportedly in part at the request of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.[166] Jordan's King Abdullah feared the activities of Hamas and its Jordanian allies would jeopardize peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and accused Hamas of engaging in illegitimate activities within Jordan.[167] In mid-September 1999, authorities arrested Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ibrahim Ghosheh on their return from a visit to Iran, and charged them with being members of an illegal organization, storing weapons, conducting military exercises, and using Jordan as a training base.[167][168] The Hamas leaders denied the charges.[169] Mashal was exiled and eventually settled in Damascus in Syria in 2001.[170] As a result of the Syrian civil war he distanced himself from Bashar al-Assad's regime in 2012 and moved to Qatar.[170]

Second Intifada

Yagur Junction bombing was a suicide attack on the Egged 960 bus in 2002. Hamas was responsible for about 40% of the 135 suicide attacks during the Second Intifiada.[171]

In contrast to the preceding uprising, the Al-Aqsa or Second Intifada began violently, with mass demonstrations and lethal Israeli counter-insurgency tactics. Prior to the incidents surrounding Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount (September 2000), Palestinian support for violence against Israelis and for Hamas had been gauged to be 52% and 10%, respectively. By July of the following year, after almost a year of savage conflict, polling indicated that 86% of Palestinians endorsed violence against Israelis and support for Hamas had risen to 17%.[172]

The al-Qassam Brigades were among the many militant groups that launched both military-style attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets in this period. In the ensuing years almost 5000 Palestinians and over 1100 Israelis were killed.[173] While there was a large number of Palestinian attacks against Israelis, the Palestinians' most effective form of violence were suicide attacks; in the first five years of the intifada a little more than half of all Israeli deaths were victims of suicide attacks. Hamas performed about 40% of the 135 suicide attacks during the period.[171]

Whatever the immediate circumstances triggering the uprising, a more general cause, writes US political science professor Jeremy Pressman, was "popular Palestinian discontent [that] grew during the Oslo peace process because the reality on the ground did not match the expectations created by the peace agreements".[174] Hamas would be the beneficiary of this growing discontent in the 2006 Palestinian Authority legislative elections.[citation needed]

According to Tristan Dunning, Israel has never responded to repeated offers by Hamas over subsequent years for a quid pro quo moratorium on attacks against civilians.[175] It has engaged in several tadi'a (periods of calm), and proposed a number of ceasefires.[175] In January 2004, Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, prior to his assassination, said that the group would end armed resistance against Israel for a 10-year hudna[l] in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and that restoring Palestinians' "historical rights" (relating to the 1948 Palestinian expulsion and flight) "would be left for future generations". His views were quickly echoed by senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, who added that Hamas envisaged a "phased liberation".[177] Israel's response was to assassinate Yassin in March in a targeted Israeli air strike, and then al-Rantisi in a similar air strike in April.[178]

In 2005, Hamas signed the Palestinian Cairo Declaration, which confirms "the right of the Palestinian people to resistance in order to end the occupation, establish a Palestinian state with full sovereignty with Jerusalem as its capital, and the guaranteeing of the right of return of refugees to their homes and property."[179]

2006 legislative elections

Ismail Haniyeh became the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority in 2006.

Hamas had boycotted the 1996 Palestinian general election and the January 2005 Palestinian presidential election (won by Mahmoud Abbas), but decided to participate in the 25 January 2006 Palestinian legislative election, the first to take place after the death of Yasser Arafat (11 November 2004). The EU figured prominently in the proposal that democratic elections be held in the Palestinian territories.[180] In the run-up to the polling day, the US administration's Condoleezza Rice, Israel's Tzipi Livni and British Prime Minister Tony Blair all expressed reservations about allowing Hamas to compete in a democratic process.[181] Hamas ran on a platform of clean government, a thorough overhaul of the corrupt administrative system, and the issue of rampant lawlessness.[182][183] The Palestinian Authority (PA), notoriously accused of corruption, chose to run Marwan Barghouti as its leading candidate, who was serving five life sentences in Israel. The US donated two million dollars to the PA to improve its media image. Israel also assisted the PA by allowing Barghouti to be interviewed in prison by Arab television and by permitting 100,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote.[183]

Crucially, the elections took place shortly after Israel had evacuated its settlements in Gaza.[184] The evacuation, executed without consulting Fatah, gave currency to Hamas' view that resistance had compelled Israel to leave Gaza.[185] In a statement Hamas portrayed it as a vindication of their strategy of armed resistance ("Four years of resistance surpassed 10 years of bargaining") and Mohammed Deif attributed "the Liberation of Gaza" to his comrades' "love of martyrdom".[186]

Hamas, intent on reaching power by political means rather than by violence, announced that it would refrain from attacks on Israel if Israel were to cease its offensives against Palestinian towns and villages.[187] Its election manifesto dropped the Islamic agenda, spoke of sovereignty for the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem (an implicit endorsement of the two-state solution), while making no mention about its claims to all of Palestine. It mentioned "armed resistance" twice and affirmed in article 3.6 that there existed a right to resist the "terrorism of occupation".[182] A Palestinian Christian figured on its candidate list.[188]

In the 25 January 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas won 74 or 76 seats of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, an absolute majority. Fatah only won 43, four seats went to independents supporting Hamas.[184] The elections were judged by international observers to have been "competitive and genuinely democratic". The EU said that they had been run better than elections in some member countries of the EU, and promised to maintain its financial support.[180] Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates urged the US to give Hamas a chance, and that it was inadvisable to punish Palestinians for their choice, a position also endorsed by the Arab League a month later.[189]

After these elections, the Hamas leader sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, declaring, among other things, that Hamas would accept a state on the 1967 borders including "a truce for many years." However, the Bush administration did not reply.[190] Early February 2006, Hamas also offered Israel a ten-year truce "in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,"[191] and recognition of Palestinian rights including the "right of return".[192] But Hamas leader Mashal added that Hamas was not calling for a final end to armed operations against Israel, and it would not impede other Palestinian groups from carrying out such operations.[193]

Also after these elections, the Quartet on the Middle East (the United States, Russia, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations) stated that assistance to the Palestinian Authority would only continue if Hamas renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, which Hamas refused to do.[194] The Quartet then imposed a freeze on all international aid to the Palestinian territories;[195] by the time Haniyeh presented his Hamas government in late March, the U.S.-led boycott against the PA was in full force.[196] As for the part of the EU, which in January 2006 had declared (see above) the Palestinian elections to have been free, their abrupt freezing of financial assistance to the Hamas-led government (following the example set by the US and Canada) in late April 2006[clarification needed] was a violation of its own core principles regarding free elections. The EU instead undertook to channel funds directly to people and projects, and pay salaries only to Fatah members, employed or otherwise.[197]

After unsuccessful attempts to form a coalition government with Fatah, Hamas on 27 March 2006 then assumed the administration of Gaza on its own,[196] and introduced radical changes.[clarification needed]

Hamas had inherited a chaotic situation of lawlessness. The (new) economic sanctions imposed by Israel, the US and the Quartet (since Hamas' victory in the elections) had further crippled the PA's administrative resources, leading to the emergence of numerous mafia-style gangs and terror cells modeled after Al Qaeda.[198] Writing in Foreign Affairs, Daniel Byman later stated:

After it took over the Gaza Strip Hamas revamped the police and security forces, cutting them 50,000 members (on paper, at least) under Fatah to smaller, efficient forces of just over 10,000, which then cracked down on crime and gangs. No longer did groups openly carry weapons or steal with impunity. People paid their taxes and electric bills, and in return authorities picked up garbage and put criminals in jail. Gaza – neglected under Egyptian and then Israeli control, and misgoverned by Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and his successors – finally has a real government.'[199][m]

Hamas–Fatah conflict

Hamas rally in Bethlehem

After the formation of the Hamas-led cabinet on March 20, 2006, tensions between Fatah and Hamas militants progressively rose in the Gaza strip as Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of demonstrations, assassinations and abductions against Hamas, which led to Hamas responding.[201] Israeli intelligence warned Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas had planned to kill him at his office in Gaza. According to a Palestinian source close to Abbas, Hamas considers President Abbas to be a barrier to its complete control over the Palestinian Authority and decided to kill him. In a statement to Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Mohammed Nazzal accused Abbas of being party to the besieging and isolation of the Hamas-led government.[202]

On June 9, 2006, during an Israeli artillery operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.[203][204] It was assumed that Israeli shellings were responsible for the killings, but Israeli government officials denied this.[205][206] Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, taking responsibility for the subsequent Qassam rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel.[207]

On June 25, two Israeli soldiers were killed and another, Gilad Shalit, captured following an incursion by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Popular Resistance Committees and Army of Islam. In response, the Israeli military launched Operation Summer Rains three days later to secure the release of the kidnapped soldier,[208][209] arresting 64 Hamas officials. Among them were 8 Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers and up to 20 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.[209] The arrests, along with other events, effectively prevented the Hamas-dominated legislature from functioning during most of its term.[210][211] Shalit was held captive until 2011, when he was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.[212] Since then, Hamas has continued building a network of internal and cross-border tunnels,[213] which are used to store and deploy weapons, shield militants, and facilitate cross-border attacks. Destroying the tunnels was a primary objective of Israeli forces in the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.[214][215]

In February 2007 Saudi-sponsored negotiations led to the Hamas & Fatah Mecca Agreement to form a unity government, signed by Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of Fatah and Khaled Mashal on behalf of Hamas. The new government was called on to achieve Palestinian national goals as approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law and the National Reconciliation Document (the "Prisoners' Document") as well as the decisions of the Arab summit.[216]

In March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council established a national unity government, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against. Government ministers were sworn in by Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, at a ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah. In June that year, renewed fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah.[217] In a leaked comment by Major General Yadlin to the American Ambassador Richard H Jones at this point (June 12, 2007), Yadlin emphasized Hamas's electoral victory and an eventual Fatah withdrawal from Gaza would be advantageous to Israeli interests, in that the PLO's relocation to the West Bank would allow Israel to treat the Gaza Strip and Hamas as a hostile country.[n] In the course of the June 2007 Battle of Gaza, Hamas exploited the near total collapse of Palestinian Authority forces in Gaza to seize[219] control of Gaza, ousting Fatah officials. President Mahmoud Abbas then dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government[220] and outlawed the Hamas militia.[221] At least 600 Palestinians died in fighting between Hamas and Fatah.[222] Human Rights Watch, a US-based group, accused both sides in the conflict of torture and war crimes.[223]

Human Rights Watch estimates several hundred Gazans were "maimed" and tortured in the aftermath of the Gaza War. 73 Gazan men accused of "collaborating" had their arms and legs broken by "unidentified perpetrators" and 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, who had escaped from Gaza's main prison compound after Israel bombed the facility, were executed by Hamas security officials in the first days of the conflict.[224][225] Hamas security forces attacked hundreds of Fatah officials who supported Israel. Human Rights Watch interviewed one such person:

There were eight of us sitting there. We were all from Fatah. Then three masked militants broke in. They were dressed in brown camouflage military uniforms; they all had guns. They pointed their guns at us and cursed us, then they began beating us with iron rods, including a 10-year-old boy whom they hit in the face. They said we were "collaborators" and "unfaithful". They beat me with iron sticks and gun butts for 15 minutes. They were yelling: "You are happy that Israel is bombing us!" until people came out of their houses, and they withdrew.[224]

In March 2012, Mahmoud Abbas stated that there were no political differences between Hamas and Fatah as they had reached agreement on a joint political platform and on a truce with Israel. Commenting on relations with Hamas, Abbas revealed in an interview with Al Jazeera that "We agreed that the period of calm would be not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank," adding that "We also agreed on a peaceful popular resistance [against Israel], the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and that the peace talks would continue if Israel halted settlement construction and accepted our conditions."[226][227] Progress was stalled, until an April 2014 agreement to form a compromise unity government, with elections to be held in late 2014.[228] These elections did not take place and following a new agreement, the next Palestinian general election was scheduled to take place by the end of March 2021, but did not happen.[229]

2008–2009 Gaza War

On 24 April 2008, Hamas through Egyptian mediators proposed to Israel a six-month truce inside the Gaza Strip, thus excluding the West Bank from his proposal. Israel on 25 April 2008 rejected the proposal, reluctant that such an agreement would strengthen Hamas against their rivals in the Palestinian Territories, Fatah, based on the West Bank, at that time running the Palestinian National Authority and as such currently negotiating peace with Israel. Also Israel rejected the proposal because Israel presumed that Hamas would use the truce to prepare for more fighting rather than peace.[230]

On June 17, 2008, Egyptian mediators announced that an informal truce had been agreed to between Hamas and Israel.[231][232] Hamas agreed to cease rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel agreed to allow limited commercial shipping across its border with Gaza, barring any breakdown of the tentative peace deal; Hamas also hinted that it would discuss the release of Gilad Shalit.[233] Israeli sources state that Hamas also committed itself to enforce the ceasefire on the other Palestinian organizations.[234] Even before the truce was agreed to, some on the Israeli side were not optimistic about it, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin stating in May 2008 that a ground incursion into Gaza was unavoidable and would more effectively quell arms smuggling and pressure Hamas into relinquishing power.[235]

Destroyed building in Rafah, January 12, 2009

While Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire, the lull was sporadically violated by other groups, sometimes in defiance of Hamas.[234][236][237] For example, on June 24 Islamic Jihad launched rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot; Israel called the attack a grave violation of the informal truce, and closed its border crossings with Gaza.[238] On November 4, 2008, Israeli forces, in an attempt to stop construction of a tunnel, killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid inside the Gaza Strip.[239][240] Hamas responded by resuming rocket attacks with a total of 190 rockets in November according to Israel's military.[241][242]

When the six-month truce officially expired on December 19, Hamas launched 50 to more than 70 rockets and mortars into Israel over the next three days, though no Israelis were injured.[243][244] On December 21, Hamas said it was ready to stop the attacks and renew the truce if Israel stopped its "aggression" in Gaza and opened up its border crossings.[244][245]

On December 27 and 28, Israel implemented Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said "We warned Hamas repeatedly that rejecting the truce would push Israel to aggression against Gaza." According to Palestinian officials, over 280 people were killed and 600 were injured in the first two days of airstrikes.[246] Most were Hamas police and security officers, though many civilians also died.[246] According to Israel, militant training camps, rocket-manufacturing facilities and weapons warehouses that had been pre-identified were hit, and later they attacked rocket and mortar squads who fired around 180 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities.[247] Chief of Gaza police force Tawfiq Jabber, head of the General Security Service Salah Abu Shrakh,[248] senior religious authority and security officer Nizar Rayyan,[249] and Interior Minister Said Seyam[250] were among those killed during the fighting. Although Israel sent out thousands of cell-phone messages urging residents of Gaza to leave houses where weapons may be stored in an attempt to minimise civilian casualties,[247] some residents complained there was nowhere to go because many neighborhoods had received the same message.[247][251][252] Israeli bombs landed close to civilian structures such as schools,[253][254] and some alleged that Israel was deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians.[255]

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 17, 2009.[256] Hamas responded the following day by announcing a one-week ceasefire to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.[257] Israeli, Palestinian and third-party sources disagreed on the total casualty figures from the Gaza war, and the number of Palestinian casualties who were civilians.[258] In November 2010, a senior Hamas official acknowledged that up to 300 fighters were killed and "In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and another 150 security forces were martyred." These new numbers reconcile the total with those of the Israeli military, which originally had said there were 709 "terror operatives" killed.[259][260]

After the Gaza War

25th anniversary of Hamas celebrated in Gaza, December 8, 2012

On August 16, 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal stated that the organization was ready to open dialogue with the Obama administration because its policies were much better than those of former US president George W. Bush:

As long as there's a new language, we welcome it, but we want to see not only a change of language, but also a change of policies on the ground. We have said that we are prepared to cooperate with the US or any other international party that would enable the Palestinians to get rid of occupation."[261]

Despite this, an August 30, 2009, speech during a visit to Jordan[262] in which Mashal expressed support for the Palestinian right of return was interpreted by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a sign that "Hamas has now clearly opted out of diplomacy."[263] In an interview in May 2010, Mashal said that if a Palestinian state with real sovereignty was established under the conditions he set out, on the borders of 1967 with its capital Jerusalem and with the right of return, that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance, and then the nature of any subsequent ties with Israel would be decided democratically by the Palestinians.[264][265] In July 2009, Khaled Mashal, Hamas's political bureau chief, stated Hamas's willingness to cooperate with a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, provided that Palestinian refugees be given the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be recognized as the new state's capital.[266]

In 2011, after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Hamas distanced itself from the Syrian regime and its members began leaving Syria. Where once there were "hundreds of exiled Palestinian officials and their relatives", that number shrunk to "a few dozen".[267] In 2012, Hamas publicly announced its support for the Syrian opposition.[268] This prompted Syrian state TV to issue a "withering attack" on the Hamas leadership.[269] Khaled Mashal said that Hamas had been "forced out" of Damascus because of its disagreements with the Syrian regime.[270] In late October, Syrian Army soldiers shot dead two Hamas leaders in Daraa refugee camp.[271] On November 5, 2012, the Syrian state security forces shut down all Hamas offices in the country.[272] In January 2013, another two Hamas members were found dead in Syria's Husseinieh camp. Activists said the two had been arrested and executed by state security forces.[273] In 2013, it was reported that the military wing of Hamas had begun training units of the Free Syrian Army.[274] In 2013, after "several intense weeks of indirect three-way diplomacy between representatives of Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority", no agreement was reached.[275] Also, intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks stalled and, as a result, during Obama's visit to Israel, Hamas launched five rocket strikes on Israel.[275] In November, Isra Almodallal was appointed the first spokeswoman of the group.[276]

In 2014, in the presence and mediation of the Emir of Qatar in Doha, the Fatah leadership headed by Abbas met with the Hamas leadership headed by Khaled Mash’al. The full minutes of the talks were published in an official Emirati document. In essence, the message of the Hamas leadership was clear: "If you in Fatah are convinced that you can get a state from Israel along the 1967 lines through negotiations, go for it. We will not interfere."[277]

2014 Gaza War to 2022

Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas. This is part of our strategy — to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, 2019[278][279]

During the 2014 Gaza War, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to counter increased Hamas rocket fire from Gaza. The conflict ended with a permanent cease-fire after 7 weeks, and more than 2,200 dead. 64 of the dead were Israeli soldiers, 7 were civilians in Israel (from rocket attacks), and 2,101 were killed in Gaza, of which, according to UN OCHA, at least 1,460 were civilians. Israel says 1,000 of the dead were militants. Following the conflict, Mahmoud Abbas president of the Palestinian Authority, accused Hamas of needlessly extending the fighting in the Gaza Strip, contributing to the high death toll, of running a "shadow government" in Gaza, and of illegally executing scores of Palestinians.[280][281][282] Hamas has complained about the slow delivery of reconstruction materials after the conflict and announced that they were diverting these materials from civilian uses to build more infiltration tunnels.[283]

In 2016, Hamas began security co-ordination with Egypt to crack down on Islamic terrorist organizations in Sinai, in return for economic aid.[284]

In early 2017, Hamas established the Supreme Administrative Committee to oversee Gaza's ministries. Abbas decried the move as Hamas creating a shadow government and trying to entrench its control in Gaza.[285] On 17 September 2017, Hamas announced it was dissolving the committee in response to Egypt's efforts as part of the Fatah–Hamas reconciliation process.[286]

In October 2017, Fatah and Hamas signed yet another reconciliation agreement. The partial agreement addresses civil and administrative matters involving Gaza and the West Bank. Other contentious issues such as national elections, reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and possible demilitarization of Hamas were to be discussed in the next meeting in November 2017, due to a new step-by-step approach.[287]

A UN report cited that Hamas, among numerous other organizations, participated in planning the 2018-2019 "the Great March of Return" along the Gaza border with Israel. The report states that the armed wings of the political parties were not represented on the committees. The planning committee included a diversity of representatives from all sectors of Palestinian society, including cultural and social organizations, student unions, and women's rights groups. The report states that "while the members of the committee held diverse political views, they stated that their unifying element was the principle that the march was to be 'fully peaceful from beginning to the end' and demonstrators would be unarmed." At least 183 unarmed Palestinian protestors, including 1 woman and 35 children, were killed by the IDF firing live ammunition and 7,623 were injured by live ammunition, fragmentation, rubber-coated bullets, and direct tear-gas canister hits. 6 Palestinians in the report, including teenagers, were shot with live ammunition for throwing stones at IDF soldiers in protest. A total of 4 IDF soldiers were injured by stones.[288]

In February–March 2021, Fatah and Hamas reached agreement to jointly conduct elections for a new Palestinian legislative assembly, in accordance with the Oslo Accords. Hamas committed to upholding international law, transferring control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and to allowing it to negotiate with Israel to establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 ceasefire lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. According to Menachem Klein, Israeli Arabist and political scientist at Bar-Ilan University, Mahmood Abbas subsequently cancelled the elections after capitulating to severe pressure from Israel and the United States.[277]

In May 2021, after tensions escalated in Sheikh Jarrah and the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, Israel and Hamas clashed in Gaza once again. After eleven days of fighting, at least 243 people were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel.[289] During this conflict Hamas's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, started planning the operation which would break out on 7 October 2023.[277]

2023 Israel–Hamas war

A blood-stained home floor in the aftermath of the Nahal Oz massacre
Civilian casualty in Gaza during the Israel–Hamas war

On October 7, 2023 early morning, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets on Israeli towns and cities, followed by an invasion, breaching the Gaza–Israel barrier. For months prior to the attack, Hamas had been leading Israeli intelligence to believe that they were not seeking conflict.[290][291] Hamas militants proceeded to massacre hundreds in Israeli civilian communities, including Kibbutzim, villages and towns, and hundreds of civilians celebrating at the Nova music festival. In total, 1,139 people were killed in Israel, making this the deadliest attack by Palestinian militants since the foundation of Israel in 1948. Approximately 250 Israeli civilians and soldiers were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip, including 30 children.[292][293][294][295] International human rights groups, medical personnel, and journalists have chronicled the militants' onslaught, detailing the killing, including the decapitation and burning, of women, children, and the elderly, alongside young men and soldiers.[296][295][297][298] There are numerous reports of rapes and sexual assaults by Hamas militants, allegations that Hamas has denied.[299][300][301]

Senior Hamas official Khaled Mashal said that the group was fully aware of the consequences of attack on Israel, stating that Palestinian liberation comes with "sacrifices".[302][303]

On October 24, Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’ spokesperson, said that Hamas will repeat the October 7 attack time and again until Israel is annihilated, since Israel constitutes a catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nation.[304][305][306]

The Israeli military responded by imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip,[307][308][309] followed by an extensive aerial bombardment campaign on Gazan targets. Israel then launched an ongoing large-scale ground invasion of Gaza with the stated goal of destroying Hamas and controlling Gaza afterwards.[310][311][312]

Political and religious positions

Hamas is widely considered to be the "dominant political force" within the Palestinian territories.[57][313][314]

Hamas' policy towards a two-state solution and towards Israel has evolved. Historically, Hamas envisioned a Palestinian state on all of the territory that belonged to the British Mandate for Palestine (that is, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea).[127] However, Hamas signed agreements with Fatah in 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2012 that indicated a tacit acceptance of the 1967 borders and previous accords[clarification needed] between PLO and Israel.[315] In 2006, Hamas signed the second version of (originally) 'the Palestinians' Prisoners Document' which supports the quest for a Palestinian state "on all territories occupied in 1967".[61][316][317] This document also recognized authority of the President of the Palestinian National Authority to negotiate with Israel.[317] On 2 May 2017, in a press conference in Doha (Qatar) presenting a new charter, Khaled Mashal, chief of the Hamas Political Bureau declared that, though Hamas considered the establishment of a Palestinian state "on the basis of June 4, 1967" (West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem) acceptable, Hamas would in that case still not recognise the statehood of Israel and not relinquish their goal of liberating all of Palestine from "the Zionist project".[66][318] Professor Mohammed Ayoob interpreted the 2017 charter as "a de facto acceptance of the preconditions for a two-state solution".[319] Hamas leaders still occasionally called for the annihilation of Israel in the early 2020s.[clarification needed][320] In 2024 Khaled Mashal said that Hamas accepts the state within the 1967 borders "to facilitate Palestinian and Arab consensus" while at the same time rejecting the two-state solution and claiming the right to all the land of Israel and Palestine.[321]

Whether Hamas would recognize Israel is debated. Hamas leaders have emphasized they do not recognize Israel,[66] but indicate they "have a de facto acceptance of its presence".[322] Hamas's acceptance of the 1967 borders acknowledges the existence of another entity on the other side.[323] Many scholars believe Hamas's acceptance of the 1967 borders implicitly recognizes Israel.[324][325]

In a 2006 interview, Ismail Haniyeh, senior political leader of Hamas and at that time Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, said ""We have no problem with a sovereign Palestinian state over all our lands within the 1967 borders, living in calm."[326] In May 2010, Khaled Mashal, then chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau said that the state of Israel living next to "a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967" would be acceptable for Hamas. In November 2010, Ismail Haniyeh[o] also proposed a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, though added three further conditions: "resolution of the issue of refugees", "the release of Palestinian prisoners", and "Jerusalem as its capital"; both Mashal and Haniyeh that year also made reservations as to a "referendum" in which "the Palestinian people" should decide whether, in such a two-state situation, those two states should still be merged into one.[328][329]

In the 1988 charter, Hamas' declared objectives were to wage an armed struggle against Israel,[127] liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and transform the country into an Islamic state.[330]

In March 2006, two months after winning an absolute majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas released its legislative program, which signaled that Hamas could refer the issue of recognizing Israel to a national referendum: "The question of recognizing Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people." In June 2006, Hamas MP Riad Mustafa explained: "Hamas will never recognize Israel", but if a popular Palestinian referendum would endorse a peace agreement including recognition of Israel, "we would of course accept their verdict".[331] A few months later, via University of Maryland's Jerome Segal, Hamas sent a letter to US President George W. Bush, stating that they "don't mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders", and asked for direct negotiations.[332]

In 2007, Hamas signed the Fatah–Hamas Mecca Agreement.[333] At the time of signing this agreement, Moussa Abu Marzouk, Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, said regarding the recognition of Israel:

I can recognize the presence of Israel as a fait accompli (amr wâqi‘) or, as the French say, a de facto recognition, but this does not mean that I recognize Israel as a state.[334]

Since 2006 though, voices inside and outside Hamas have argued that the original 1988 Charter, with its talk of “eliminating” the state of Israel, is no longer (fully) in force — which others again have denied (see 1988 Hamas charter#Relevance).

In an April 2008 meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and former US President Jimmy Carter, an understanding was reached in which Hamas agreed it would respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, provided this were ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum.[335] In 2009, in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haniyeh repeated his group's support for a two-state settlement based on 1967 borders: "We would never thwart efforts to create an independent Palestinian state with borders [from] June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital."[336] On December 1, 2010, Ismail Haniyeh again repeated, "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees," and "Hamas will respect the results [of a referendum] regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles."[337]

In November 2011, Hamas leader Khaled Mishal made an agreement with Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo, in which he committed to respecting the 1967 borders.[clarification needed][338]

In February 2012, according to the Palestinian authority, Hamas forswore the use of violence. Evidence for this was provided by an eruption of violence from Islamic Jihad in March 2012 after an Israeli assassination of a Jihad leader, during which Hamas refrained from attacking Israel.[339] "Israel—despite its mantra that because Hamas is sovereign in Gaza it is responsible for what goes on there—almost seems to understand," wrote Israeli journalists Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, "and has not bombed Hamas offices or installations".[340]

As to the question whether Hamas is capable to enter into a long-term non-aggression treaty with Israel without being disloyal to their understanding of Islamic law and God's word, the Atlantic magazine columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in 2009 stated: "I tend to think not, though I’ve noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. Also, this is the Middle East, so anything is possible".[341]

The short-term goal of Hamas was to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation. Some academics argue that the long-term aim seeks to establish an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, remarkably similar to, and perhaps derived from, the Zionist notion of the same area under a Jewish majority.[p][343][344][345][346][347]

On 2 November 2023, Ismail Haniyeh stated that if Israel agreed to a ceasefire in the 2023 Israel–Hamas war and the opening of humanitarian corridors to bring more aid into Gaza, Hamas is "ready for political negotiations for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine."[348]

Hudna proposals

When Hamas won a majority in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Ismail Haniyeh, the then newly elected Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, sent messages both to US President George W. Bush and to Israel's leaders, asking to be recognized and offering a long-term truce and the establishment of a border on the lines of 1967. No response came.[349] Haniyeh's proposal reportedly was a fifty-year armistice with Israel, if a Palestinian state is created along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.[350] A Hamas official added that the armistice would renew automatically each time.[351] In mid-2006, University of Maryland's Jerome Segal suggested that a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and a truce for many years could be considered Hamas's de facto recognition of Israel.[332] Hamas's spokesperson, Ahmed Yousef, said that a "hudna" is more than a ceasefire and it "obliges parties to use the period to seek a permanent, non-violent resolution to their differences."[176]

In November 2008, in a meeting, on Gaza Strip soil, with 11 European members of parliaments, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh re-stated that Hamas was willing to accept a Palestinian state "in the territories of 1967" (Gaza Strip and West Bank), and offered Israel a long-term truce if Israel recognized the Palestinians' national rights; and stated that Israel rejected this proposal.[352] A Hamas finance minister around 2018 contended that such a "long-term ceasefire as understood by Hamas and a two-state settlement are the same”.[70]

Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University, in September 2009 wrote that Hamas talks "of hudna [temporary ceasefire], not of peace or reconciliation with Israel. They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine."[353] Several more authors have warned around 2020, that, if Israel would accept such a proposal (a Palestinian state "in the territories of 1967" combined with a long-term truce), Hamas would retain its objective of establishing one state in former Mandatory Palestine.[73][74] Hamas originally proposed a 10-year truce, or hudna, to Israel, contingent on the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Sheikh Ahmed Yasin indicated that such truce could be extended for 30, 40, or even 100 years, but it would never signal a recognition of Israel. A Hamas official explained that having an indefinite truce with Israel doesn't contradict Hamas's lack of recognition of Israel, comparing it to the Irish Republican Army's willingness to accept a permanent armistice with the United Kingdom without recognizing the UK's sovereignty over Northern Ireland.[68] Many scholars maintain that Hamas's goal of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is an interim solution, while its long-term goal is a single state in all of mandatory Palestine in which Jews live as citizens.[74]

Religious policy

In the Gaza Strip

The gender ideology outlined in the Hamas charter, the importance of women in the religious-nationalist project of liberation is asserted as no lesser than that of males. Their role was defined primarily as one of manufacturing males and caring for their upbringing and rearing, though the charter recognized they could fight for liberation without obtaining their husband's permission and in 2002 their participation in jihad was permitted.[354] The doctrinal emphasis on childbearing and rearing as woman's primary duty is not so different from Fatah's view of women in the First Intifada and it also resembles the outlook of Jewish settlers, and over time it has been subjected to change.[355][356]

In 1989, during the First Intifada, a small number of Hamas followers[357] campaigned for the wearing of the hijab, which is not a part of traditional women's attire in Palestine,[citation needed] for polygamy, and also insisted women stay at home and be segregated from men. In the course of this campaign, women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed, with the result that the hijab was being worn 'just to avoid problems on the streets'.[358] The harassment dropped drastically when, after 18 months UNLU condemned it,[359] though similar campaigns reoccurred.

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, some of its members have attempted to impose Islamic dress or the hijab head covering on women.[353][360] The government's "Islamic Endowment Ministry" has deployed Virtue Committee members to warn citizens of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing, and dating.[361] There are no government laws imposing dress and other moral standards, and the Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students.[353] There has also been successful resistance to attempts by local Hamas officials to impose Islamic dress on women.[362] Hamas officials deny having any plans to impose Islamic law, one legislator stating that "What you are seeing are incidents, not policy," and that Islamic law is the desired standard "but we believe in persuasion".[361]

In 2013, UNRWA canceled its annual marathon in Gaza after Hamas prohibited women from participating in the race.[363]

In the West Bank

In 2005, the human rights organization Freemuse released a report titled "Palestine: Taliban-like attempts to censor music", which said that Palestinian musicians feared that harsh religious laws against music and concerts will be imposed since Hamas group scored political gains in the Palestinian Authority local elections of 2005.[364]

The attempt by Hamas to dictate a cultural code of conduct in the 1980s and early 1990s led to a violent fighting between different Palestinian sectors. Hamas members reportedly burned down stores that stocked videos they deemed indecent and destroyed books they described as "heretical".[365]

In 2005, an outdoor music-and-dance performance in Qalqiliya was suddenly banned by the Hamas-led municipality, for the reason that such an event would be "haram", i.e. forbidden by Islam.[366] The municipality also ordered that music no longer be played in the Qalqiliya zoo, and mufti Akrameh Sabri issued a religious edict affirming the municipality decision.[365] In response, the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish warned that "There are Taliban-type elements in our society, and this is a very dangerous sign."[364][365][367][368]

The Palestinian columnist Mohammed Abd Al-Hamid, a resident of Ramallah, wrote that this religious coercion could cause the migration of artists, and said "The religious fanatics in Algeria destroyed every cultural symbol, shattered statues and rare works of art and liquidated intellectuals and artists, reporters and authors, ballet dancers and singers—are we going to imitate the Algerian and Afghani examples?"[365]

Erdoğan's Turkey as a role model

Some Hamas members have stated that the model of Islamic government that Hamas seeks to emulate is that of Turkey under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The foremost members to distance Hamas from the practices of the Taliban and to publicly support the Erdoğan model were Ahmed Yousef and Ghazi Hamad, advisers to Prime Minister Hanieh.[369][370] Yusuf, the Hamas deputy foreign minister, reflected this goal in an interview with a Turkish newspaper, stating that while foreign public opinion equates Hamas with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, the analogy is inaccurate. Yusuf described the Taliban as "opposed to everything", including education and women's rights, while Hamas wants to establish good relations between the religious and secular elements of society and strives for human rights, democracy and an open society.[371] According to professor Yezid Sayigh of King's College in London, how influential this view is within Hamas is uncertain, since both Ahmad Yousef and Ghazi Hamad were dismissed from their posts as advisers to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh in October 2007.[369] Both have since been appointed to other prominent positions within the Hamas government. Khaled al-Hroub of the West Bank-based and anti-Hamas[372] Palestinian daily Al Ayyam added that despite claims by Hamas leaders that it wants to repeat the Turkish model of Islam, "what is happening on the ground in reality is a replica of the Taliban model of Islam."[373][374]

1988 Hamas Charter

Hamas published its charter in August 1988, wherein it defined itself as a chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its desire to establish "an Islamic state throughout Palestine".[113] The foundational document was, according to Khaled Hroub, written by a single individual and made public without going through the usual prior consultation process.[q] It was then signed on August 18, 1988. It contains both antisemitic passages and characterizations of Israeli society as Nazi-like in its cruelty,[376] and irredentist claims.[377][378][379] It declares all of Palestine a waqf, an unalienable religious property consisting of land endowed to Muslims in perpetuity by God,[380][r][382] with religious coexistence under Islam's rule.[383] The charter rejects a two-state solution, stating that the conflict cannot be resolved "except through jihad".[384][385]

Article 6 states that the movement's aim is to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned".[386][387] It adds that, "when our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims",[388] for which the whole of the land is non-negotiable, a position likened, without the racist sentiments present in the Hamas charter, to that in the Likud party platform and in movements such as Gush Emunim. For Hamas, to concede territory is seen as equivalent to renouncing Islam itself.[389][390][343][344][345][346][391][347]

The violent language against all Jews in the original Hamas charter is antisemitic and has been characterized by some as genocidal.[392][393][394] The charter attributes collective responsibility to Jews, not just Israelis, for various global issues, including both World Wars.[395]

2017 charter

In May 2017, Hamas unveiled a rewritten charter, titled "A Document of General Principles and Policies". The charter accepts a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, without recognizing Israel. The charter clarifies that Hamas's struggle is not against the Jewish people but against Zionists.[80] The charter argues that armed resistance to occupation is supported by international law.[396][397][398] It also claims to support democracy.[399][318] Hamas has described these changes as adaptation within a specific context, as opposed to abandonment of its principles.[400]

The 2017 charter removes the antisemitic references of the 1988 charter.[78][401] But some sources maintain Hamas's condemnation of Zionists is antisemitic too.[399][79] The 2017 charter describes Zionism as part of a conspiratorial global plot, as the enemy of all Muslims, and a danger to international security, and blames the Zionists for the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism.[402]

Organization

Leadership and structure

Map of key Hamas leadership nodes. 2010

Hamas inherited from its predecessor a tripartite structure that consisted in the provision of social services, of religious training and military operations under a Shura Council. Traditionally it had four distinct functions: (a) a charitable social welfare division (dawah); (b) a military division for procuring weapons and undertaking operations (al-Mujahideen al Filastinun); (c) a security service (Jehaz Aman); and (d) a media branch (A'alam).[403] Hamas has both an internal leadership within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and an external leadership, split between a Gaza group directed by Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook from his exile first in Damascus and then in Egypt, and a Kuwaiti group (Kuwaidia) under Khaled Mashal.[141] The Kuwaiti group of Palestinian exiles began to receive extensive funding from the Gulf States after its leader Mashal broke with Yasser Arafat's decision to side with Saddam Hussein in the Invasion of Kuwait, with Mashal insisting that Iraq withdraw.[404] On May 6, 2017, Hamas' Shura Council chose Ismail Haniya to become the new leader, to replace Mashal.[405]

The exact structure of the organization is unclear as it is shrouded in a veil of secrecy in order to conceal operational activities. Formally, Hamas maintains the wings are separate and independent, but this has been questioned. It has been argued that its wings are both separate and combined for reasons of internal and external political necessity. Communication between the political and military wings of Hamas is made difficult by the thoroughness of Israeli intelligence surveillance and the existence of an extensive base of informants. After the assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi the political direction of the militant wing was diminished and field commanders were given wider discretional autonomy over operations.[406]

Political Bureau

Hamas's overarching governing body is the Majlis al-Shura (Shura Council), based on the Qur'anic concept of consultation and popular assembly (shura), which Hamas leaders argue provides for democracy within an Islamic framework.[407] As the organization grew more complex and Israeli pressure increased, the Shura Council was renamed the General Consultative Council, with members elected from local council groups. The council elects the 15-member Political Bureau (al-Maktab al-Siyasi)[408] that makes decisions for Hamas. Representatives come from Gaza, the West Bank, leaders in exile and Israeli prisons.[409] The Political Bureau was based in Damascus until the Syrian Civil War until Hamas's support for the civil opposition to Bashar al-Assad led to the office's relocation to Qatar in January 2012, .[409][410]

Finances and funding

Hamas, like its predecessor the Muslim Brotherhood, assumed the administration of Gaza's waqf properties, endowments which extend over 10% of all real estate in the Gaza Strip, with 2,000 acres of agricultural land held in religious trusts, together with numerous shops, rentable apartments and public buildings.[411]

In the first five years of the 1st Intifada, the Gaza economy, 50% of which depended on external sources of income, plummeted by 30–50% as Israel closed its labour market and remittances from the Palestinian expatriates in the Gulf countries dried up following the 1991–1992 Gulf War.[412] At the 1993 Philadelphia conference, Hamas leaders' statements indicated that they read George H. W. Bush's outline of a New World Order as embodying a tacit aim to destroy Islam, and that therefore funding should focus on enhancing the Islamic roots of Palestinian society and promoting jihad, which also means zeal for social justice, in the occupied territories.[413] Hamas became particularly fastidious about maintaining separate resourcing for its respective branches of activity—military, political and social services.[414] It has had a holding company in East Jerusalem (Beit al-Mal), a 20% stake in Al Aqsa International Bank which served as its financial arm, the Sunuqrut Global Group and al-Ajouli money-changing firm.[415]

By 2011, Hamas's budget, calculated to be roughly US$70 million, derived even more substantially (85%) from foreign, rather than internal Palestinian, sources.[415] Only two Israeli-Palestinian sources figure in a list seized in 2004, while the other contributors were donor bodies located in Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Germany, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Italy and France. Much of the money raised comes from sources that direct their assistance to what Hamas describes as its charitable work for Palestinians, but investments in support of its ideological position are also relevant, with Persian Gulf States and Saudi Arabia prominent in the latter. Matthew Levitt claims that Hamas also taps money from corporations, criminal organizations and financial networks that support terror.[416] It is also alleged that it engages in cigarette and drug smuggling, multimedia copyright infringement and credit card fraud.[415] The United States, Israel and the EU have shut down many charities and organs that channel money to Hamas, such as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief.[417] Between 1992 and 2001, this group is said to have provided $6.8 million to Palestinian charities of the $57 million collected. By 2001, it was alleged to have given Hamas $13 million, and was shut down shortly afterwards.[418]

About half of Hamas's funding came from states in the Persian Gulf down to the mid-2000s. Saudi Arabia supplied half of the Hamas budget of $50 million in the early 2000s,[419] but, under US pressure, began to cut its funding by cracking down on Islamic charities and private donor transfers to Hamas in 2004,[420] which by 2006 drastically reduced the flow of money from that area. Iran and Syria, in the aftermath of Hamas's 2006 electoral victory, stepped in to fill the shortfall.[421][422] Saudi funding, negotiated with third parties including Egypt, remained supportive of Hamas as a Sunni group but chose to provide more assistance to the PNA, the electoral loser, when the EU responded to the outcome by suspending its monetary aid.[423] During the 1980s, Iran began to provide 10% of Hamas's funding, which it increased annually until by the 1990s it supplied $30 million.[419] It accounted for $22 million, over a quarter of Hamas's budget, by the late 2000s.[420] According to Matthew Levitt, Iran preferred direct financing to operative groups rather than charities, requiring video proof of attacks.[420][424] Much of the Iran funding is said to be channeled through Hezbollah.[420] After 2006, Iran's willingness to take over the burden of the shortfall created by the drying up of Saudi funding also reflected the geopolitical tensions between the two, since, though Shiite, Iran was supporting a Sunni group traditionally closely linked with the Saudi kingdom.[425] The US imposed sanctions on Iran's Bank Saderat, alleging it had funneled hundreds of millions to Hamas.[426] The US has expressed concerns that Hamas obtains funds through Palestinian and Lebanese sympathizers of Arab descent in the Foz do Iguaçu area of the tri-border region of Latin America, an area long associated with arms trading, drug trafficking, contraband, the manufacture of counterfeit goods, money-laundering and currency fraud. The State Department adds that confirmatory information of a Hamas operational presence there is lacking.[427]

After 2009, sanctions on Iran made funding difficult, forcing Hamas to rely on religious donations by individuals in the West Bank, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars raised in the Gulf states were transferred through the Rafah Border Crossing. These were not sufficient to cover the costs of governing the Strip and running the al Qassam Brigades, and when tensions arose with Iran over support of President Assad in Syria, Iran dropped its financial assistance to the government, restricting its funding to the military wing, which meant a drop from $150 million in 2012 to $60 million the following year. A further drop occurred in 2015 when Hamas expressed its criticisms of Iran's role in the Yemeni Civil War.[428]

In 2017, the PA government imposed its own sanctions against Gaza, including, among other things, cutting off salaries to thousands of PA employees, as well as financial assistance to hundreds of families in the Gaza Strip. The PA initially said it would stop paying for the electricity and fuel that Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip, but after a year partially backtracked.[429] The Israeli government has allowed millions of dollars from Qatar to be funneled on a regular basis through Israel to Hamas, to replace the millions of dollars the PA had stopped transferring to Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that letting the money go through Israel meant that it could not be used for terrorism, saying: "Now that we are supervising, we know it's going to humanitarian causes."[430]

According to U.S. officials, as of 2023 Hamas has an investment portfolio that is worth anywhere from 500 million to US$1 billion, including assets in Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.[431] Hamas has denied such allegations.[432]

Social services wing

Hamas developed its social welfare programme by replicating the model established by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. For Hamas, charity and the development of one's community are both prescribed by religion and to be understood as forms of resistance.[433] In Islamic tradition, dawah (lit. transl. "the call to God") obliges the faithful to reach out to others by both proselytising and by charitable works, and typically the latter centre on the mosques which make use of both waqf endowment resources and charitable donations (zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam) to fund grassroots services such as nurseries, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, women's activities, library services and even sporting clubs within a larger context of preaching and political discussions.[434] In the 1990s, some 85% of its budget was allocated to the provision of social services.[435] Hamas has been called perhaps the most significant social services actor in Palestine. By 2000, Hamas or its affiliated charities ran roughly 40% of the social institutions in the West Bank and Gaza and, with other Islamic charities, by 2005, was supporting 120,000 individuals with monthly financial support in Gaza.[436] Part of the appeal of these institutions is that they fill a vacuum in the administration by the PLO of the Palestinian territories, which had failed to cater to the demand for jobs and broad social services, and is widely viewed as corrupt.[84] As late as 2005, the budget of Hamas, drawing on global charity contributions, was mostly tied up in covering running expenses for its social programmes, which extended from the supply of housing, food and water for the needy to more general functions such as financial aid, medical assistance, educational development and religious instruction. A certain accounting flexibility allowed these funds to cover both charitable causes and military operations, permitting transfer from one to the other.[437]

The dawah infrastructure itself was understood, within the Palestinian context, as providing the soil from which a militant opposition to the occupation would flower.[s] In this regard it differs from the rival Palestinian Islamic Jihad which lacks any social welfare network, and relies on spectacular terrorist attacks to recruit adherents.[439] In 2007, through funding from Iran, Hamas managed to allocate at a cost of $60 million, monthly stipends of $100 for 100,000 workers, and a similar sum for 3,000 fishermen laid idle by Israel's imposition of restrictions on fishing offshore, plus grants totalling $45 million to detainees and their families.[440] Matthew Levitt argues that Hamas grants to people are subject to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of how beneficiaries will support Hamas, with those linked to terrorist activities receiving more than others.[441] Israel holds the families of suicide bombers accountable and bulldozes their homes, whereas the families of Hamas activists who have been killed or wounded during militant operations are given an initial, one-time grant varying between $500–$5,000, together with a $100 monthly allowance. Rent assistance is also given to families whose homes have been destroyed by Israeli bombing though families unaffiliated with Hamas are said to receive less.[356][442]

Until 2007, these activities extended to the West Bank, but, after a PLO crackdown, now continue exclusively in the Gaza Strip.[443] After the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état deposed the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Hamas found itself in a financial straitjacket and has since endeavoured to throw the burden of responsibility for public works infrastructure in the Gaza Strip back onto the Palestinian National Authority, but without success.[444]

Military wing

Weapons found in a mosque during Operation Cast Lead, according to the IDF

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is Hamas's military wing.[445] While the number of members is known only to the Brigades leadership, Israel estimates the Brigades have a core of several hundred members who receive military style training, including training in Iran and in Syria (before the Syrian Civil War).[129] Additionally, the brigades have an estimated 10,000–17,000 operatives,[436][446] forming a backup force whenever circumstances call for reinforcements for the Brigade. Recruitment training lasts for two years.[129] The group's ideology outlines its aim as the liberation of Palestine and the restoration of Palestinian rights under the dispensations set forth in the Qur'an, and this translates into three policy priorities:

To evoke the spirit of Jihad (Resistance) among Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims; to defend Palestinians and their land against the Zionist occupation and its manifestations; to liberate Palestinians and their land that was usurped by the Zionist occupation forces and settlers.[447]

According to its official stipulations, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades' military operations are to be restricted to operating only inside Palestine, engaging with Israeli soldiers,[t] and in exercising the right of self-defense against armed settlers. They are to avoid civilian targets, to respect the enemy's humanity by refraining from mutilation, defacement or excessive killing, and to avoid targeting Westerners either in the occupied zones or beyond.[448]

Exercise of al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza City, January 27, 2013

Down to 2007, the Brigades are estimated to have lost some 800 operatives in conflicts with Israeli forces. The leadership has been consistently undermined by targeted assassinations. Aside from Yahya Ayyash (January 5, 1996), it has lost Emad Akel (November 24, 1993), Salah Shehade (July 23, 2002), Ibrahim al-Makadmeh (March 8, 2003), Ismail Abu Shanab (August 21, 2003), Ahmed Yassin (March 22, 2004), and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi (April 17, 2004).[449][107]

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades groups its fighters in 4–5 man cells, which in turn are integrated into companies and battalions. Unlike the political section, which is split between an internal and external structure, the Brigades are under a local Palestinian leadership, and disobedience with the decisions taken by the political leadership have been relatively rare.[450]

Although the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas, the exact nature of the relationship is hotly debated. They appear to operate at times independently of Hamas, exercising a certain autonomy.[451][452][453][454][455] Some cells have independent links with the external leadership, enabling them to bypass the hierarchical command chain and political leadership in Gaza.[456] Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill, likening Hamas's relationship with the Brigades to the political party Sinn Féin's relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army, quote a senior Hamas official as stating: "The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders from Hamas and do not tell us of their plans in advance."[457][u]

Gaza forces, October 2023

During the 2023 Gaza war, the IDF published its intelligence about the Hamas military in the Strip.[459] They put the strength of the Qassam Brigades there at the start of the war at 30,000 fighters, organised by area in five brigades, consisting in total of 24 battalions and c. 140 companies.[459] Each regional brigade had a number of strongholds and outposts, and included specialised arrays for rocket firing, anti-tank missiles, air defenses, snipers, and engineering.[459]

Media

Al-Aqsa TV

Al-Aqsa TV is a television channel founded by Hamas.[460] The station began broadcasting in the Gaza Strip on January 9, 2006,[461][462] less than three weeks before the Palestinian legislative elections. It has shown television programs, including some children's television, which deliver antisemitic messages.[463] Hamas has stated that the television station is "an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement", and that Hamas does not hold antisemitic views.[464] The programming includes ideologically tinged children's shows, news talk, and religiously inspired entertainment.[465] According to the Anti-Defamation League, the station promotes terrorist activity and incites hatred of Jews and Israelis.[462] Al-Aqsa TV is headed by Fathi Ahmad Hammad, chairman of al-Ribat Communications and Artistic Productions—a Hamas-run company that also produces Hamas's radio station, Voice of al-Aqsa, and its biweekly newspaper, The Message.[466]

Al-Fateh magazine

Al-Fateh ("the conqueror") is the Hamas children's magazine, published biweekly in London, and also posted in an online website. It began publication in September 2002, and its 108th issue was released in mid-September 2007. The magazine features stories, poems, riddles, and puzzles, and states it is for "the young builders of the future".[467]

According to the Anti-Defamation League, al-Fateh promotes violence and antisemitism, with praise for and encouragement to become suicide bombers, and that it "regularly includes photos of children it claims have been detained, injured or killed by Israeli police, images of children firing slingshots or throwing rocks at Israelis and children holding automatic weapons and firebombs."[468]

Social media

Hamas has traditionally presented itself as a voice of suffering of the Palestinian people. According to Time magazine, a new social media strategy was employed in the wake of the October 7 attack: Hamas asserted itself as the dominant resistance force in the Middle East by recording and broadcasting the brutality of their attacks.[469]

According to Dr. Harel Horev, historian and researcher of Palestinian affairs at Tel Aviv University, Hamas has used social medi to dehumanize Israelis/Jews. According to his research, Hamas took over the most popular accounts on Palestinian networks in a covert manner that did not reveal its involvement. This control gave it the ability to significantly influence the Palestinian discourse online through content that denies the humanity and right to life of Israelis. These included posters, songs and videos glorifying threats; computer games that encourage the murder of Jews; training videos for carrying out effective and indiscriminate stabbing and shooting attacks; and anti-Semitic cartoons as a central means of dehumanizing the Israeli/Jew in the Palestinian online discourse.[470][471]

Violence

Hamas has used both political activities and violence in pursuit of its goals. For example, while politically engaged in the 2006 Palestinian Territories parliamentary election campaign, Hamas stated in its election manifesto that it was prepared to use "armed resistance to end the occupation".[472]

From 2000 to 2004, Hamas was responsible for killing nearly 400 Israelis and wounding more than 2,000 in 425 attacks, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2001 through May 2008, Hamas launched more than 3,000 Qassam rockets and 2,500 mortar attacks into Israel.[473]

Attacks on civilians

Aftermath of 1996 Jaffa Road bus bombings in which 26 people were killed

Hamas has attacked Israeli civilians. Hamas's most deadly suicide bombing was an attack on a Netanya hotel on March 27, 2002, in which 30 people were killed and 140 were wounded. The attack has also been referred to as the Passover massacre since it took place on the first night of the Jewish festival of Passover at a Seder.

Hamas has defended suicide attacks as a legitimate aspect of its asymmetric warfare against Israel. In 2003, according to Stephen Atkins, Hamas resumed suicide bombings in Israel as a retaliatory measure after the failure of peace talks and an Israeli campaign targeting members of the upper echelon of the Hamas leadership.[v] but they are considered as crimes against humanity under international law.[475][476] In a 2002 report, Human Rights Watch stated that Hamas leaders "should be held accountable" for "war crimes and crimes against humanity" committed by the al-Qassam Brigades.[477][478][479]

In May 2006, Israel arrested a top Hamas official, Ibrahim Hamed, who Israeli security officials alleged was responsible for dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis.[480] Hamed's trial on those charges has not yet concluded.[481] In 2008, Hamas explosives engineer Shihab al-Natsheh organized a deadly suicide bombing in Dimona.[482][483]

Since 2002, militants of al-Qassam Brigades and other groups have used homemade Qassam rockets to hit Israeli towns in the Negev, such as Sderot. Al-Qassam Brigades was estimated in 2007 to have launched 22% of the rocket and mortar attacks,[484] which killed fifteen people between the years 2000 and 2009.[485] The introduction of the Qassam-2 rocket in 2008 enabled Palestinian paramilitary groups to reach, from Gaza, such Israeli cities such as Ashkelon.[486]

In 2008, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, offered that Hamas would attack only military targets if the IDF would stop causing the deaths of Palestinian civilians.[487] Following a June 19, 2008, ceasefire, the al-Qassam Brigades ended its rocket attacks and arrested Fatah militants in Gaza who had continued sporadic rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. The al-Qassam Brigades resumed the attacks after the November 4 Israeli incursion into Gaza.[234][488]

On June 15, 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of involvement in the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers (including one who held American citizenship), saying "This has severe repercussions."[489] On July 20, 2014, nearly two weeks into Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu in an interview with CNN described Hamas as "genocidal terrorists."[490]

On August 5, 2014, Israel announced that Israeli security forces arrested Hussam Kawasme, in Shuafat, in connection with the murders of the teens.[491] During interrogation, Kawasme admitted to being the mastermind behind the attack, in addition to securing the funding from Hamas.[492] Officials have stated that additional people arrested in connection with the murders are still being held, but no names have been released.[493]

On August 20, Saleh al-Arouri, a Hamas leader then in exile in Turkey, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. He delivered an address on behalf of Khaled Mashal at the conference of the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Istanbul, a move that might reflect a desire by Hamas to gain leverage.[494] In it he said:

Our goal was to ignite an intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as within the 1948 borders. ... Your brothers in the Al-Qassam Brigades carried out this operation to support their imprisoned brothers, who were on a hunger strike. ... The mujahideen captured these settlers in order to have a swap deal.[495][better source needed]

Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal accepted that members of Hamas were responsible, stating that he knew nothing of it in advance and that what the leadership knew of the details came from reading Israeli reports.[496] Mashal, who had headed Hamas's exiled political wing since 2004, has denied being involved in the "details" of Hamas's "military issues," but "justified the killings as a legitimate action against Israelis on 'occupied' lands."[497]

The 2023 Re'im music festival massacre has left 364 people dead with many others wounded or taken hostage

During the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel, Hamas infiltrated homes, shot civilians en masse, and took scores of Israeli civilians and soldiers as hostages into Gaza.[55][56] According to Human Rights Watch, the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate attacks, and taking of civilians as hostages amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law.[498] During its October 2023 offensive against Israel, Hamas massacred 364 people at the Re'im music festival, while abucting others.[499][500] During the same offensive, it also was reported that Hamas had massacred the population of the Kfar Aza kibbutz.[501] About 10 percent of the residents of the Be'eri kibbutz were killed.[502] Hamas militants attacked the Psyduck festival, that took place near kibutz Nir Oz, killing 17 Israeli partygoers.[503] Video footage shows children being deliberately killed during the kibbutz attacks,[504] as well as what appears to be an attempt to decapitate a living person using a garden hoe.[505] Forensic teams who have examined bodies of victims said many bodies showed signs of torture as well as rape.[506][507][508] Testimonies from witnesses to acts of gang rapes committed by Hamas militants were collected by the police.[509]

Rocket attacks on Israel

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have launched thousands of rockets into Israel since 2001, killing 15 civilians, wounding many more, and posing an ongoing threat to the nearly 800,000 Israeli civilians who live and work in the weapons' range. Hamas officials have said that the rockets were aimed only at military targets, saying that civilian casualties were the "accidental result" of the weapons' poor quality. According to Human Rights Watch, statements by Hamas leaders suggest that the purpose of the rocket attacks was indeed to strike civilians and civilian objects. From January 2009, following Operation Cast Lead, Hamas largely stopped launching rocket attacks on Israel and has on at least two occasions arrested members of other groups who have launched rockets, "showing that it has the ability to impose the law when it wants".[510] In February 2010, Hamas issued a statement regretting any harm that may have befallen Israeli civilians as a result of Palestinian rocket attacks during the Gaza war. It maintained that its rocket attacks had been aimed at Israeli military targets but lacked accuracy and hence sometimes hit civilian areas. Israel responded that Hamas had boasted repeatedly of targeting and murdering civilians in the media.[511]

According to one report, commenting on the 2014 conflict, "nearly all the 2,500–3,000 rockets and mortars Hamas has fired at Israel since the start of the war seem to have been aimed at towns", including an attack on "a kibbutz collective farm close to the Gaza border", in which an Israeli child was killed.[512] Former Israeli Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi stated that "Hamas has expressed pride in aiming long-range rockets at strategic targets in Israel including the nuclear reactor in Dimona, the chemical plants in Haifa, and Ben-Gurion Airport", which "could have caused thousands" of Israeli casualties "if successful".[513]

In July 2008, Barack Obama, then the Democratic presidential candidate, said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."[514] On December 28, 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement: "the United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel."[515] On March 2, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks.[516]

On October 7, 2023, Hamas claimed responsibility for a barrage of missile attacks originating from the Gaza Strip.[517]

Attempts to derail 2010 peace talks

In 2010, Hamas, who have been actively sidelined from the peace talks by Israel, spearheaded a coordinated effort by 13 Palestinian militant groups, in attempt to derail the stalled peace talks between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority. According to the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major Gen. Eitan Dangot, Israel seeks to work with Salam Fayyad, to help revive the Palestinian economy, and hopes to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip further, "while somehow preventing the Islamic militants who rule it from getting credit for any progress". According to Dangot, Hamas must not be seen as ruling successfully or be allowed to "get credit for a policy that would improve the lives of people".[518] The campaign consists of attacks against Israelis in which, according to a Hamas declaration in early September, "all options are open".[519][520][521][522] The participating groups also include Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and an unnamed splinter group of Fatah.[523]

As part of the campaign, on August 31, 2010, 4 Israeli settlers, including a pregnant woman, were killed by Hamas militants while driving on Route 60 near the settlement Kiryat Arba, in the West bank. According to witnesses, militants opened fire on the moving vehicle, but then "approached the car" and shot the occupants in their seats at "close range". The attack was described by Israeli sources as one of the "worst" terrorist acts in years.[524][525][526] A senior Hamas official said that Israeli settlers in the West Bank are legitimate targets since "they are an army in every sense of the word".[527][528]

Guerrilla warfare

Hamas anti-tank rockets, captured by Israel Defense Forces during Operation Protective Edge

Hamas has made great use of guerrilla tactics in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser degree the West Bank.[529] It has successfully adapted these techniques over the years since its inception. According to a 2006 report by rival Fatah party, Hamas had smuggled between several hundred and 1,300 tons of advanced rockets, along with other weaponry, into Gaza.[529]

Hamas has used IEDs and anti-tank rockets against the IDF in Gaza. The latter include standard RPG-7 warheads and home-made rockets such as the Al-Bana, Al-Batar and Al-Yasin. The IDF has a difficult, if not impossible, time trying to find hidden weapons caches in Palestinian areas—this is due to the high local support base Hamas enjoys.[530]

Extrajudicial killings of rivals

In addition to killing Israeli civilians and armed forces, Hamas has also murdered suspected Palestinian Israel collaborators and Fatah rivals.[531][532] According to the Associated Press, collaborating with Israel is a crime punishable by death in Gaza.[533] Hundreds of Palestinians were executed by both Hamas and Fatah during the First Intifada.[534] In the wake of the 2006 Israeli conflict with Gaza, Hamas was accused of systematically rounding up, torturing and summarily executing Fatah supporters suspected of supplying information to Israel. Human Rights Watch estimates several hundred Gazans were "maimed" and tortured in the aftermath of the conflict. Seventy-three Gazan men accused of "collaborating" had their arms and legs broken by "unidentified perpetrators", and 18 Palestinians accused of helping Israel were executed by Hamas security officials in the first days of the conflict.[224][225][535] In November 2012, Hamas's Izzedine al-Qassam brigade publicly executed six Gaza residents accused of collaborating with Israel. According to the witnesses, six alleged informers were shot dead one by one in Gaza City, while the corpse of the sixth victim was tied by a cable to the back of a motorcycle and dragged through the streets.[536] In 2013, Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning Hamas for not investigating and giving a proper trial to the six men. Their statement was released the day before Hamas issued a deadline for "collaborators" to turn themselves in, or they will be pursued "without mercy".[537] During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas executed at least 23 accused collaborators after three of its commanders were assassinated by Israeli forces, with Amnesty International also reporting instances of torture used by Hamas forces.[538][539] An Israeli source denied that any of the commanders had been targeted on the basis of human intelligence.[540]

Frequent killings of unarmed people have also occurred during Hamas-Fatah clashes.[541][542] NGOs have cited a number of summary executions as particular examples of violations of the rules of warfare, including the case of Muhammad Swairki, 28, a cook for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard, who was thrown to his death, with his hands and legs tied, from a 15-story apartment building in Gaza City.[543] Hamas security forces reportedly shoot and torture Palestinians who opposed Hamas rule in Gaza.[544] In one case, a Palestinian had criticized Hamas in a conversation on the street with some friends. Later that day, more than a dozen armed men with black masks and red kaffiyeh took the man from his home, and brought him to a solitary area where they shot him three times in the lower legs and ankles. The man told Human Rights Watch that he was not politically active.[224]

On August 14, 2009, Hamas fighters stormed the Mosque of cleric Abdel-Latif Moussa.[545] The cleric was protected by at least 100 fighters from Jund Ansar Allah ("Army of the Helpers of God"), an Islamist group with links to Al-Qaeda. The resulting battle left at least 13 people dead, including Moussa and six Hamas fighters, and 120 people injured.[546] According to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, during 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Hamas killed more than 120 Palestinian youths for defying house arrest imposed on them by Hamas, in addition to 30–40 Palestinians killed by Hamas in extrajudicial executions after accusing them of being collaborators with Israel.[547] Referring to the killing of suspected collaborators, a Shin Bet official stated that "not even one" of those executed by Hamas provided any intelligence to Israel, while the Shin Bet officially "confirmed that those executed during Operation Protective Edge had all been held in prison in Gaza in the course of the hostilities".[540]

2011–2013 Sinai insurgency

Hamas has been accused of providing weapons, training and fighters for Sinai-based insurgent attacks,[548][549] although Hamas strongly denies the allegations, calling them a smear campaign aiming to harm relations with Egypt.[548] According to the Egyptian Army, since the ouster of Egypt's Muslim-Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, over 600 Hamas members have entered the Sinai Peninsula through smuggling tunnels.[550] In addition, several weapons used in Sinai's insurgent attacks are being traced back to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to the army.[550] The four leading insurgent groups in the Sinai have all reportedly maintained close ties with the Gaza Strip.[551] Hamas called the accusation a "dangerous development".[552] Egyptian authorities stated that the 2011 Alexandria bombing was carried out by the Gaza-based Army of Islam, which has received sanctuary from Hamas and earlier collaborated in the capture of Gilad Shalit.[551][553][554][555] Army of Islam members linked to the August 2012 Sinai attack have reportedly sought refuge in the Gaza Strip.[551] Egypt stated that Hamas directly provided logistical support to the Muslim Brotherhood militants who carried out the December 2013 Mansoura bombing.[556]

Terrorist designation

  Designated Hamas as a terrorist organization
  Designated the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist organization

The United States designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation in 1995, as did Canada in November 2002,[557] and the United Kingdom in November 2021.[43] The European Union so designated Hamas's military wing in 2001 and, under US pressure,[558] designated Hamas in 2003.[559] Hamas challenged this decision,[560] which was upheld by the European Court of Justice in July 2017.[561] Japan[562] and New Zealand[563] have designated the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist organization.[564] The organization is banned in Jordan.[565]

Hamas is not regarded as a terrorist organization by Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran,[566] Russia,[567] Norway,[w] Turkey, China,[569] Egypt, Syria, and Brazil.[570][571][572][excessive citations] "Many other states, including Russia, China, Syria, Turkey and Iran consider the (armed) struggle waged by Hamas to be legitimate."[573]

According to Tobias Buck, Hamas is "listed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, but few dare to treat it that way now" and in the Arab and Muslim world it has lost its pariah status and its emissaries are welcomed in capitals of Islamic countries.[574] While Hamas is considered a terrorist group by several governments and some academics, others regard Hamas as a complex organization, with terrorism as only one component.[575][576]

Country Designated as terrorist org. Comments
 Australia Yes Australia announced they would designate Hamas as a terrorist organization in its entirety in 2022. Prior to that, Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, were recognized as one but the political branch were not.[577][578][579][580]
 Brazil No Brazil does not designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.[570][581] The Brazilian government only classifies organizations as terrorists when the United Nations does so.[582]
 Canada Yes Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Government of Canada has listed Hamas as a terrorist entity, thus establishing it as a terrorist group, since 2002.[583][584]
 China No As of 2006, China does not designate Hamas to be a terrorist organization and acknowledges Hamas to be the legitimately elected political entity in the Gaza Strip that represents the Palestinian people. In June 2006, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated: "We believe that the Palestinian government is legally elected by the people there and it should be respected."[585][586]
 Egypt No In March 2014, as part of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood organization following the July 2013 overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Cairo's Urgent Matters Court outlawed Hamas's activities in Egypt, ordered the closure of its offices and to arrest any Hamas member found in the country.[587][588] In February 2015, the aforementioned court designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, accusing Hamas of carrying terrorist attacks in Egypt through tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.[589]
However, in June 2015, Egypt's appeals court overturned the prior ruling that listed Hamas as a terrorist organization,[590] and Egypt (as of 2023) no longer officially regards Hamas to be a terrorist organization.
 European Union Yes The EU designated Hamas as a terrorist group from 2003. In December 2014, the General Court of the European Union ordered that Hamas be removed from the register. The court stated that the move was technical and was not a reassessment of Hamas's classification as a terrorist group. In March 2015, EU decided to keep Hamas on its terrorism blacklist "despite a controversial court decision", appealing the court's judgment.[591][592][593][594][595][596][597][598] In July 2017, this appeal was upheld by the European Court of Justice.[599][600]
 India No Hamas is not regarded as a terrorist organization by India,[601] though individual Indian leaders have condemned certain Hamas' attacks as terrorist.
 Iran No Hamas is not regarded as a terrorist organization by Iran.[566][573]
 Israel Yes The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs states, "Hamas maintains a terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank, and acts to carry out terrorist attacks in the territories and Israel."[602]
 Japan Yes As of 2005, Japan had frozen the assets of 472 terrorists and terrorist organizations including those of Hamas.[603] However, in 2006 it publicly acknowledged that Hamas had won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections democratically.[604]
 Jordan No Hamas was banned in 1999, reportedly in part at the request of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.[166] In 2019, Jordanian sources are said to have revealed "that the Kingdom refused a request from the General Secretariat of the Arab League in late March to ban Hamas and list it as a terrorist organization."[605][better source needed]
 New Zealand Partial The military wing of Hamas, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been listed as a terrorist entity since 2010.[606] New Zealand PM Chris Hipkins reiterated in October 2023 that "Hamas is recognised by New Zealand as a terrorist organisation".[607]
 Norway No Norway does not list Hamas as a terrorist organization.[608] Norway distanced itself from the European Union in 2006, claiming that its listing was causing problems for its role as a 'neutral facilitator.'[568] After Progress Party leader Sylvi Listhaug criticized PM Jonas Gahr Støre at the start of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war for not calling Hamas a terrorist organization, Støre said that it was an organization that carried out terrorist acts but he would not change Norway's listing.[609]
 Paraguay Partial The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is listed as a terrorist organization.[citation needed]
 Philippines No Hamas is not considered as a terrorist organization by the Philippines. The National Security Council has proposed considering Hamas as a terrorist group as a response to the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.[610][611]
 Qatar No The Qatari government has a designated terrorist list. As of 2014, the list contained no names, according to The Daily Telegraph.[612] In September 2020, Qatar brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that is reported to include "plans to build a power station operated by Qatar, the provision of $34 million for humanitarian aid, provision of 20,000 COVID-19 testing kits by Qatar to the Health Ministry, and a number of initiatives to reduce unemployment in the Gaza Strip."[613]
 Russia No Russia does not designate Hamas a terrorist organisation, and held direct talks with Hamas in 2006, after Hamas won the Palestine elections, stating that it did so to press Hamas to reject violence and recognise Israel.[614]
 Saudi Arabia No Saudi Arabia banned the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014 and branded it a terrorist organization. While Hamas is not specifically listed, a non-official Saudi source stated that the decision also encompasses its branches in other countries, including Hamas.[615][616] As of January 2020, ties between Saudi Arabia and Hamas remain strained despite attempts at a rapprochement. Wesam Afifa, director general of Al-Aqsa TV is quoted as saying that "Saudi Arabia did not sever ties with Hamas, and even when Riyadh made public its list of terrorists in 2017, Hamas was not added to the list."[617] In 2020, Saudi Arabia arrested 68 Palestinian and Jordanian citizens associated with Hamas in a special terrorism court. However, in 2022, Saudi Arabia released a number of those detainees in recent months, including senior member Mohammad Al-Khodary, who was set free in October, following statements by Hamas leaders expressing their desire for improved relations with the country.[618] In 2023, during Ramadan, senior members of Hamas, including Ismail Haniyeh, Mousa Marzook, Khalil al-Hayya and Khaled Meshaal arrived in Saudi Arabia to mend Hamas's relationship with Saudi Arabia. They were spotted performing Umrah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.[619]
  Switzerland No Before the Hamas-led attack on Israel, Switzerland had not designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and had direct contacts with all major stakeholders in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including Hamas.[620] After the Hamas-led attack, the Swiss government (Federal Council) decided to propose listing Hamas as a terrorist organization[621] [622] and stated that it would recommend Swiss parliament to pass a new law by the end of February 2024 to ban “Hamas activities" or "support" for the group.[623] Already in December 2023, the upper house of Swiss parliament, the Council of States, voted to ban Hamas and declare it terrorist,[624] as well as the Security Policy Commission of the lower house, the National Council.[625] However, the full National Council has yet to vote on a ban and terrorist designation.
 Syria No Syria does not designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. Syria is among other countries that consider Hamas' armed struggle to be legitimate.[573]
 Turkey No The Turkish government met with Hamas leaders in February 2006, after the organization's victory in the Palestinian elections. In 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described Hamas as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land".[626][627]
 United Kingdom Yes Hamas in its entirety is proscribed as a terrorist group and banned under the Terrorism Act 2000. "The government now assess that the approach of distinguishing between the various parts of Hamas is artificial. Hamas is a complex but single terrorist organisation."[43]
 United Nations No The list of United Nations designated terrorist groups does not include Hamas.[628] On December 5, 2018, the UN rejected a US resolution aimed at unilaterally condemning Hamas for Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and other violence.[629][630][86][631]
 United States Yes Lists Hamas as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization".[632] The State Department decided to add Hamas to its US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in April 1993.[633] As of 2023, it is still listed.[634]

Criticism

Aside from its use of political violence in pursuit of its goals, Hamas has been widely criticised for a variety of reasons, including the use of antisemitic hate speech by its representatives, frequent calls for the military destruction of Israel, its specific use of human shields[635] and child combatants as part of its military operations, its restriction of political freedoms within the Gaza Strip, and human rights abuses.

After starting the 2023 war, the European Parliament passed a motion stating the need for Hamas to be eliminated, with US President Biden having expressed the same sentiment.[636][637] Hamas was accused of having committed genocide against Israelis on 7 October 2023 by 240 legal experts, including jurists and academics, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, chaired by former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, and Genocide Watch.[638][639][640][641][642]

Support

Israeli policy towards Hamas

Benjamin Netanyahu had been Israel's prime minister for most of the two decades preceding the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, and was criticized for having championed a policy of empowering Hamas in Gaza.[643][644][645][646] This policy was part of a strategy to sabotage a two-state solution by confining the Palestinian Authority to the West Bank and weakening it, and to demonstrate to the Israeli public and western governments that Israel has no partner for peace.[647][648] This criticism was leveled by several Israeli officials, including former prime minister Ehud Barak, and former head of Shin Bet security services Yuval Diskin.[647] Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority were also critical of Israel under Netanyahu allowing suitcases of Qatari money to be given to Hamas,[647] in exchange for maintaining the ceasefire.[643] The Times of Israel reported after the Hamas attack that Netanyahu's policy to treat the Palestinian Authority as a burden and Hamas as an asset had "blown up in our faces".[643]

Public support

A poll conducted in 2021 found that 53% of Palestinians believed Hamas was "most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people", while only 14% preferred Abbas's Fatah party.[649] At the same time, a majority of Gazans saw Hamas as corrupt as well, but were frightened to criticize the group.[650] Polls conducted in September 2023 found that support for Hamas among Palestinians was around 27–31%.[651]

Public opinions of Hamas deteriorated after it took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Prior to the takeover, 62% of Palestinians had held a favorable view of the group, while a third had negative views. According to a 2014 Pew Research just prior to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, only about a third had positive opinions and more than half viewed Hamas negatively. Furthermore, 68% of Israeli Arabs viewed Hamas negatively.[652] In July 2014, 65% of Lebanese viewed Hamas negatively. In Jordan and Egypt, roughly 60% viewed Hamas negatively, and in Turkey, 80% had a negative view of Hamas. In Tunisia, 42% had a negative view of Hamas, while 56% of Bangladeshis and 44% of Indonesians had a negative opinion of Hamas.[652]

Hamas popularity surged after the war in July–August 2014 with polls reporting that 81 percent of Palestinians felt that Hamas had "won" that war.[653][654] A June 2021 opinion poll found that 46% of respondents in Saudi Arabia supported rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas during the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis.[655] A March/April 2023 poll found that 60% of Jordanians viewed Hamas firing rockets at Israel at least somewhat positively.[656]

In November 2023, during Israel's bombing and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Hamas's popularity among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank increased significantly.[657][658] Support for Hamas also increased among the people of Jordan.[659] According to the poll conducted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy from November 14 to December 6, 2023, 40% of Saudi participants expressed a positive view of Hamas, 95% of Saudis did not believe that Hamas killed civilians in its attack on Israel, and only 16% of Saudis said Hamas should accept a two-state solution.[660]

Pro-Hamas rally in Damascus

International relations

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2012

After winning the Palestinian elections, Hamas leaders made multi-national diplomatic tours abroad. In April 2006, Mahmoud al-Zahar (then foreign minister) visited Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Sudan and Egypt.[661] He met the Saudi foreign minister Prince Faysal. In Syria he held talks on the issue of Palestinians stuck on the Syrian-Iraqi border. He also stated that he unofficially met officials from Western Europe in Qatar who did not wish to be named.[661] In May 2006, Hamas foreign minister visited Indonesia, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei, Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka and Iran.[661] The minister also participated in China–Arab States Cooperation Forum.[662] Ismail Haniyeh in 2006 visited Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Iran, Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.[663]

Hamas has always maintained leadership abroad. The movement is deliberately fragmented to ensure that Israel cannot kill its top political and military leaders.[664] Hamas used to be strongly allied with both Iran and Syria. Iran gave Hamas an estimated $13–15 million in 2011 as well as access to long-range missiles. Hamas's political bureau was once located in the Syrian capital of Damascus before the start of the Syrian civil war. Relations between Hamas, Iran, and Syria began to turn cold when Hamas refused to back the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Instead, Hamas backed the Sunni rebels fighting against Assad. As a result, Iran cut funding to Hamas, and Iranian ally Hezbollah ordered Hamas members out of Lebanon.[23] Hamas was then forced out of Syria, and subsequently has tried to mend fences with Iran and Hezbollah.[23] Hamas contacted Jordan and Sudan to see if either would open up its borders to its political bureau, but both countries refused, although they welcomed many Hamas members leaving Syria.[665]

From 2012 to 2013, under the short-lived leadership of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, Hamas had the support of Egypt. However, after Morsi was removed from office, his successor Abdul Fattah al-Sisi outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and destroyed the tunnels Hamas built into Egypt. In 2015, Egypt declared Hamas a terrorist organization. But this decision was overturned by Egypt in June of the same year.[666] There was a rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt, when a Hamas delegation visited Cairo on 12 March 2016.[667] Hamas has assisted Egypt in controlling the insurgency in Sinai.[667] However, Hamas denied Egypt's request to deploy its own militants in the Sinai leading to tensions between the two.[667]

Egypt has occasionally served as mediator between Hamas and Fatah, seeking to unify the two factions. In 2017, Yahya Sinwar visited Cairo for 5 weeks and convinced the Egyptian government to open the Rafah crossing, letting in cement and fuel in exchange for Hamas committing to better relations with Fatah; this subsequently led to the signing of the 2017 Fatah–Hamas Agreement.[668]

The United Arab Emirates has been hostile to Hamas designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and Hamas was at the time viewed as the Brotherhood's Palestinian equivalent.[23]

Hamas enjoyed close relations with Saudi Arabia in its early years.[669] Saudi Arabia funded most of its operations from 2000 to 2004, but reduced its support due to US pressure.[670] In 2020, many Hamas members in Saudi Arabia were arrested. In 2022, Saudi Arabia began releasing Hamas members from prison. In April 2023, Ismail Haniyeh visited Riyadh, a sign of improving relations.[669] Haniyeh had long sought to visit Saudi Arabia, and his requests to do so had been long ignored up until then.[671]

Despite its Sunni Islamist ideology, Hamas has been flexible and pragmatic in its foreign policy, moderating and toning down its religious rhetoric when expedient;[672] it has developed strong ties with Iran,[673] and has also established relations with constitutionally secular states such as Syria and Russia.[673][672]

North Korea supplies Hamas with weaponry.[674] Ali Barakeh, a Hamas official living in Lebanon, claimed the two are allies.[675][676]

Hamas leaders reportedly re-established relations with Kuwait, Libya and Oman, all of which reportedly have not had warm relations with Fatah.[677] The cool relationship between Fatah and Kuwait owed to Arafat's support for Saddam during the First Gulf War, which lead to the Palestinian exodus from Kuwait (1990–91).[677] This rapproachment is in part due to Hamas's policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.[677] Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated that Hamas does not "play the game" of siding with one Arab nation against another (e.g. in the Gulf War).[678] When Al-Qaradawi, and other Sunni ulema, called for an uprising against Assad's regime in Syria, Mahmoud Al-Zahar maintained that taking sides would harm the Palestinian cause.[679][clarification needed]

Qatar and Turkey

According to Middle East experts, now Hamas has two firm allies: Qatar and Turkey. Both give Hamas public and financial assistance estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.[23] Qatar has transferred more than $1.8 billion to Hamas.[680] Shashank Joshi, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, says that "Qatar also hosts Hamas's political bureau which includes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal." Meshaal also visits Turkey frequently to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[23] Erdogan has dedicated himself to breaking Hamas out of its political and economic seclusion. On US television, Erdogan said in 2012 that "I don't see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party."[664]

Qatar has been called Hamas' most important financial backer and foreign ally.[681][682] In 2007, Qatar was, with Turkey, the only country to back Hamas after the group ousted the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip.[23] The relationship between Hamas and Qatar strengthened in 2008 and 2009 when Khaled Meshaal was invited to attend the Doha Summit where he was seated next to the then Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who pledged $250 million to repair the damage caused by Israel in the Israeli war on Gaza.[665] These events caused Qatar to become the main player in the "Palestinian issue". Qatar called Gaza's blockade unjust and immoral, which prompted the Hamas government in Gaza, including former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, to thank Qatar for their "unconditional" support. Qatar then began regularly handing out political, material, humanitarian and charitable support for Hamas.[665]

Haniyeh with Turkish Minister of Culture Numan Kurtulmuş, 20 November 2012

In 2012, Qatar's former Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, became the first head of state to visit Gaza under Hamas rule. He pledged to raise $400 million for reconstruction.[683] Sources say that advocating for Hamas is politically beneficial to Turkey and Qatar because the Palestinian cause draws popular support amongst their citizens at home.[684]

Speaking in reference to Qatar's support for Hamas, during a 2015 visit to Palestine, Qatari official Mohammad al-Emadi, said Qatar is using the money not to help Hamas but rather the Palestinian people as a whole. He acknowledges however that giving to the Palestinian people means using Hamas as the local contact. Emadi said, "You have to support them. You don't like them, don't like them. But they control the country, you know."[685] Some argue that Hamas's relations with Qatar are putting Hamas in an awkward position because Qatar has become part of the regional Arab problem. However, Hamas claims that having contacts with various Arab countries establishes positive relations which will encourage Arab countries to do their duty toward the Palestinians and support their cause by influencing public opinion in the Arab world.[665] In March 2015, Hamas has announced its support of the Saudi Arabian-led military intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.[686]

In May 2018, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tweeted to the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu that Hamas is not a terrorist organization but a resistance movement that defends the Palestinian homeland against an occupying power. During that period there were conflicts between Israeli troops and Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip, due to the decision of the United States to move their embassy to Jerusalem.[687] Also in 2018 the Israel Security Agency accused SADAT International Defense Consultancy (a Turkish private military company with connections to the Turkish government) of transferring funds to Hamas.[688]

In February 2020, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Turkish President Erdoğan.[689] On 26 July 2023, Haniyeh met with Erdoğan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Behind the meeting was Turkey's effort to reconcile Fatah with Hamas.[690] On 7 October 2023, the day of the Hamas attack on Israel, Haniyeh was in Istanbul, Turkey.[691] On 21 October 2023, Haniyeh spoke with Erdoğan about the latest developments in the Israel–Hamas war and the current situation in Gaza.[692] On 25 October 2023, Erdoğan said that Hamas was not a terrorist organisation but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands and people.[693]

Lawsuits

In the United States

The charitable trust Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was accused in December 2001 of funding Hamas.[694][695][696] The US Justice Department filed 200 charges against the foundation. The case first ended in a mistrial, in which jurors acquitted on some counts and were deadlocked on charges ranging from tax violations to providing material support for terrorists. In a retrial, on November 24, 2008, the five leaders of the Foundation were convicted on 108 counts.[697]

Several US organizations were either shut down or held liable for financing Hamas in early 2001, groups that have origins from the mid-1990s, among them the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and Kind Hearts. The US Treasury Department specially designated the HLF in 2001 for terror ties because from 1995 to 2001 the HLF transferred "approximately $12.4 million outside of the United States with the intent to contribute funds, goods, and services to Hamas." According to the Treasury Department, Khaled Meshal identified one of HLF's officers, Mohammed El-Mezain as "the Hamas leader for the US". In 2003, IAP was found liable for financially supporting Hamas, and in 2006, Kind Hearts had their assets frozen for supporting Hamas.[698]

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 Bet Shemesh, Israel. Hamas was ordered to pay the families of the Ungars $116 million.[699] The Palestinian Authority settled the lawsuit in 2011. The settlement terms were not disclosed.[700] 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".[701] The indicted included Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, who had left the US in 1997.[702] On February 1, 2007, two men were acquitted of contravening United States law by supporting Hamas. Both men argued that they helped move money for Palestinian causes aimed at helping the Palestinian people and not to promote terrorism.[703]

In January 2009, a Federal prosecutor accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of having links to a charity designated as a support network for Hamas.[704] The Justice Department identified CAIR as an "un-indicted co-conspirator" in the Holy Land Foundation case.[705] Later, a federal appeals court removed that label for all parties and instead, named them "joint venturers".[706] CAIR was never charged with any crime, and it complained that the designation had tarnished its reputation.[707][better source needed]

In Germany

A German federal court ruled in 2004 that Hamas was a unified organization whose humanitarian aid work could not be separated from its "terrorist and political activities".[708] In July 2010, Germany outlawed Frankfurt-based International Humanitarian Aid Organization (IHH e.V.), saying it had used donations to support Hamas-affiliated relief projects in Gaza.[709][710] German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that while presenting their activities to donors as humanitarian assistance, IHH e.V. had "exploited trusting donors' willingness to help by using money that was given for a good purpose for supporting what is, in the final analysis, a terrorist organization".[709][710][711]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "As with Islamic political organizations elsewhere, Hamas offers its followers an ideology that appropriates the universal message of Islam for what is, in effect, a nationalist struggle."[10]
  2. ^ "Hamas considers Palestine the main front of jihad and viewed the uprising as an Islamic way of fighting the Occupation. The organisation's leaders argued that Islam gave the Palestinian people the power to confront Israel and described the Intifada as the return of the masses to Islam. Since its inception, Hamas has tried to reconcile nationalism and Islam. [...] Hamas claims to speak as a nationalist movement but with an Islamic-nationalist rather than a secular nationalist agenda."[12]
  3. ^ "Hamas is primarily a religious movement whose nationalist worldview is shaped by its religious ideology."[13]
  4. ^ UK: /həˈmæs/ hə-MASS, US: /həˈmɑːs/ hə-MAHSS;[45] Arabic: حَمَاس, romanizedḤamās, IPA: [ħaˈmaːs][46]
  5. ^ حركة المقاومة الإسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah
  6. ^ A two-thirds majority was required for the motion to pass. 87 voted in favour, 58 against, 32 abstained and 16 did not vote.[86]
  7. ^ It is unclear whether these groups were set up in 1985 or 1986.
  8. ^ Abu Amr states the following people attended: Dr. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantisi (40), a physician residing in Khan Yunis; Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazuri (45), a pharmacist residing in Gaza city; Shaykh Salih Shehada (40), a University instructor from Beit Hanoun; 'Isa al-Nashshar (35), an engineer in Rafah; Muhammad Sham'a (50), a teacher in al-Shati refugee camp and 'Abd al-Fattah Dukhan (50), a school principal at al-Nusayrat refugee camp.[4]
  9. ^ 'In truth, the creation of Hamas as a separate entity from the Muslim Brotherhood was done precisely to prevent Israeli authorities from targeting the organizations' greater activities, in the hopes that it would leave them relatively immune. Moreover, Hamas was created essentially because the Islamicists connected to the Muslim Brotherhood feared that without their direct participation in the first Intifada, they would lose supporters to both the PIJ and the PLO, the latter of which was anxious to reassert itself in the Palestinian territories after being marginalized following its expulsion from Lebanon. As authors Mishal and Sela, explain, "The Mujamma's decision to adopt a 'jihad now' policy against 'enemies of Allah' (through the creation of Hamas) was thus largely a matter of survival.'[109][110]
  10. ^ Davis, de Búrca, and Dalacoura write that the Brigades were formed in 1991;[124][125][126] Najib & Friedrich write that they were formed in the summer of 1991;[105] O'Malley[127] and Hussein[128] write that they were formed in 1992.
  11. ^ Islah Jad writes: "The Arabic word isqat has various literal meanings, most pertinently to 'tumble' or 'fall,' as into a trap. In the Palestinian context, it refers specifically to the methods used by the Israelis to manipulate or seduce victims and force them to work against their people's national interests."[145]
  12. ^ Hamas' former spokesman and Deputy Foreign Minister in Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, explained in a New York Times op-ed what this meant juridically. (A hudna) 'typically cover(s) 10 years and (is) recognized in Islamic jurisprudence as a legitimate and binding contract. A hudna extends beyond the Western concept of a ceasefire and obliges parties to use the period to seek a permanent, non-violent resolution to their differences'.[176]
  13. ^ "Aside from Hamas' stated goal to 'serve the people', this desire for security reform, again, perhaps is unsurprising given that Hamas was frequently the target of these apparatuses as an opposition movement. Hamas' security apparatus in the Gaza Strip is presently politicized as well, but it has managed to institute the rule of law and order which had eluded the previous Fatah-led forces, despite the Hamas government employing only a fraction of the resources and personnel. Indeed, Hamas streamlined the security forces, reducing the number of personnel from 56,887 prior to its armed seizure of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 to around 15,000 today. In contrast to its West Bank counterparts, moreover, the Hamas security sector is unambiguously under civilian control in line with Western modes of governance, and is thus, according to Sayigh, more accountable."[200]
  14. ^ :'(Yadlin) commented that if Fatah decided it had lost Gaza, there would be calls for Abbas to set up a separate regime in the West Bank. While not necessarily reflecting a consensus GOI (Government of Israel) view, Yadlin commented that such a development would please Israel since it would enable the IDF (Israel's occupying force) to treat Gaza as a hostile country rather than having to deal with Hamas as a non-state actor.'[218]
  15. ^ Haniyeh at the time was the Prime Minister of the State of Palestine but dismissed[327] by his President Abbas in 2007
  16. ^ In nutshell, the notion of "Palestine from the river to the sea" is nothing but the boundaries of Eretz Israel as imagined by the first Zionists. The notion was enshrined in the founding charter of the ruling Likud party, which states that "between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty." One can thus entertain the chilling irony that Hamas owes its cherished slogan to the Zionists. After all, what is "free Palestine from the river to the sea" but a utopian parody of "Greater Israel"?[342]
  17. ^ 'The Charter was written in early 1988 by one individual and was made public without appropriate general Hamas consultation, revision or consensus, to the regret of Hamas's leaders in later years. The author of the Charter was one of the 'old guard' of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip, completely cut off from the outside world. All kinds of confusions and conflations between Judaism and Zionism found their way into the Charter, to the disservice of Hamas ever since, as this document has managed to brand it with charges of 'anti-Semitism' and a naïve world-view' Hamas leaders and spokespeople have rarely referred to the Charter or quoted from it, evidence that it has come to be seen as a burden rather than an intellectual platform that embraces the movement's principles.'[375]
  18. ^ 'The second major component in Palestine's sanctity, according to Hamas, is its designation as a waqf by the Caliph 'Umar b. al-Khattab. When the Muslim armies conquered Palestine in the year 638, the Hamas Charter says, the Caliph 'Umar b. al-Khattab decided not to divide the conquered land among the victorious soldiers, but to establish it as a waqf, belonging to the entire Muslim nation until the day of resurrection.'[381]
  19. ^ 'In a 1995 lecture, Sheikh Jamil Hamami, a party to the foundation of Hamas and a senior member of its West Bank leadership, expounded the importance of Hamas' dawa infrastructure as the soil from which militancy would flower.'[438]
  20. ^ 'Consistent attacks on army units by Hamas activists are as new as the use of anti-tank missiles against civilian homes by the Israeli military.'[412]
  21. ^ Matthew Levitt on the other hand claims that Hamas's welfare institutions act as a mere façade or front for the financing of terrorism, and dismisses the idea of two wings as a 'myth'.[458] He cites Ahmad Yassin stating in 1998: "We can not separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body."[96]
  22. ^ 'This ceasefire ended when Israel started targeting Hamas leaders for assassination in July 2003. Hamas retaliated with a suicide bombing in Israel on August 19, 2003, that killed 20 people, including 6 children. Since then Israelis have mounted an assassination campaign against the senior leadership of Hamas that has killed 13 Hamas members, including Ismail Abu Shanab, one of the most moderate leaders of Hamas. ... After each of these assassinations, Hamas has sent a suicide bomber into Israel in retaliation.'[474]
  23. ^ "In 2006, Norway explicitly distanced itself from the EU proscription regime, claiming that it was causing problems for its role as a 'neutral facilitator.'"[568]

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  12. ^ Cheema 2008, p. 465.
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  14. ^ Dunning 2016, p. 270.
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