(Arabic: Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya)
Patterns of Global
Terrorism, 2002. United
States Department of State, April 2003.
Formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Various HAMAS elements have used both political and violent
means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic
Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements
working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social
service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities,
and distribute propaganda. HAMAS’s strength is concentrated in the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank. Also has engaged in peaceful political activity,
such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections.
HAMAS activists, especially those in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have
conducted many attacks—including large-scale suicide bombings—against Israeli
civilian and military targets. In the early 1990s, they also targeted suspected
Palestinian collaborators and Fatah rivals. HAMAS increased its operational
activity during 2001-2002 claiming numerous attacks against Israeli interests.
The group has not targeted US interests—although some US citizens have been
killed in HAMAS operations—and continues to confine its attacks to Israelis
inside Israel and the territories.
Unknown number of official members; tens of thousands of supporters and
Location/Area of Operation
HAMAS currently limits its terrorist operations to Israeli military and civilian
targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel. The group’s leadership is
dispersed throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with a few senior leaders
residing in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf States.
Receives some funding from Iran but primarily relies on donations from
Palestinianexpatriates around the world and private benefactors in moderate Arab
states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe
and North America.
Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism
The Hamas (a word meaning courage and bravery) is a radical
Islamic organization which became active in the early stages of the Intifada,
operating primarily in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank. The Hamas has
played a major role in violent fundamentalist subversion and radical terrorist
operations against both Israelis and Arabs. In its initial period, the movement
was headed primarily by people identified with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in
In the course of the Intifada, Hamas gained momentum,
expanding its activity also in the West Bank, to become the dominant Islamic
fundamentalist organization in the Territories. It defined its highest priority
as Jihad (Holy War) for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an
Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". By its
participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes
of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to
play a central role in the Intifada. As a result of its subversive and terrorist
activity, Hamas was outlawed in September 1989.
After the Gulf War, Hamas has become the leading perpetrator
of terrorist activity throughout the Territories as well as inside Israel. Today
it is the second most powerful group, after Fatah, and is sometimes viewed as
threatening the hegemony of the secular nationalists. It is currently the
strongest opposition group to the peace process and the escalation of its
terrorist activity through the murderous
suicide bombings against civil targets in Israel in February-March 1996 has
slowed down the political process and threatens to stop it altogether.
Hamas is the Arabic acronym for "The Islamic Resistance Movement" (Harakat
al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya). The organizational and ideological sources of Hamas
can be found in the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which was set up in
the 1920s in Egypt and renewed and strengthened its activity in the 1960s and
1970s in the Arab world, mainly in Jordan and Egypt.
The Muslim Brothers were also active in the Gaza Strip and the
The cornerstone of the Muslim Brotherhood is the system of essentially social
activity which they call Da'wah. In the twenty years preceding the Intifada,
they built an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural
infrastructure, which gave them a political stronghold, both in the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank. It was successful despite their lack of support for the
nationalist policy of armed struggle.
The Hamas movement was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement?s spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association
by the name Al-Mujamma Al Islami, which widened its base of supporters and
sympathizers by religious propaganda and social work.
A great part of the success of Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood is due to their
influence in the Gaza Strip. The large numbers of refugees, the socio-economic
hardships of the population in the refugee camps and the relatively low status
of the nationalist elements there until recently, enabled Hamas to deepen its
roots among the refugees. Its emphasis on a solution that would include the
liberation of all Palestine is more attractive to the Gazans, beyond the social
factors that nourish the Islamic influence in that area.
Another factor, which served the popularity of the Islamic
phenomena, was that the Palestinian nationalist movement and the PLO moved the
center of their political power away from Palestine, by consolidating an
external leadership at the expense of the internal one in the Territories. In
contrast, the Islamic camp and its leadership developed entirely within
Palestine (al-dakhil) and could thus better serve the interests of the
The Islamic infrastructure in the Territories was separate but
parallel to the nationalist institutions built by the PLO in the 1980s. Hamas
was successful in forming a social system which has provided an alternative to
the social-political structure of the PLO. Hamas?s prestige is based on both its
ideological and practical capabilities, as a movement whose contribution to the
daily life of the Palestinians is not less than its contribution to the struggle
against Israel and the occupation.
The significant change in the Muslim Brotherhood movement was the transition
from passivity towards the Israeli rule to militancy and large-scale violent
activity, especially in and from the Gaza Strip. The movement changed its name
to the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas, and emphasized its Palestinian
character and patriotism. It professed to be not just a parallel force but an
alternative to the almost absolute control of the PLO and its factions over the
Palestinians in the Territories.
In August 1988 Hamas published the
Islamic Covenant - its ideological credo, which presented its policy on all
levels of the struggle, both against Israel and the national movement of the
PLO. The Hamas Covenant challenged the PLO and its claim to be the sole
legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, but it did not call for its
The means used by the Hamas to increase their influence in the street were the
mosques. The mosque was the first stop on the road to civil rebellion. At the
same time the Hamas leaders worked at setting up the various apparatuses of the
movement. In the tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yassin built the
Hamas as an underground movement. He decided to separate the different
apparatuses and the area activists and use only encoded messages in the internal
The military apparatus was called Mujahidin. At
first, the leadership did not strive to large numbers of activists in the
organization. The aim of the founders was to set up instruments of activity that
will rely on a small number of central activists. But a new generation of street
leaders emerged out of the complex structural system built by the MB over the
years. This generation, obedient and full of religious fervor has become the
spearhead of the Islamic struggle.
The Setting Up of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Battalions
At the beginning of 1991 Zaccaria Walid Akel, the head of the
terrorist section of the Hamas in Gaza, set up the first squads of the Izz
Al-Din Al-Qassam Battalions. In its first stages the terrorist squads kidnapped
and executed people suspected of cooperation with Israel. The murder of the Kfar
Darom resident, Doron Shorshan in December 1991, was the first murder of an
Israeli citizen done by a Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam squads, and marked the change in
Hamas?s modus operandi.
The basic ideology of Hamas is founded primarily on the mainstream of the
Muslim Brotherhood. In the Islamic Covenant published by Hamas in August 1988,
it defined itself as the "Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood".
However, there is a clear distinction in the order of
priorities set forth by Hamas, as opposed to those of the Muslim Brotherhood in
the Territories prior to the Intifada, particularly as regards the question of
Jihad. The Muslim Brotherhood viewed Jihad as a general duty and principle and
it maintained that Islam would be established first throughout the Muslim world,
only later to be followed by violent Jihad against Israel, in which Palestine,
too, would be liberated. Hamas stresses Jihad as the sole and immediate means to
solve the problem of Palestine.
Hamas defines the transition to the
stage of Jihad "for the liberation of all of Palestine" as a personal religious
duty incumbent upon every Muslim. At the same time, it utterly rejects any
political arrangement that would entail the relinquishment of any part of
Palestine, which for it is tantamount to a surrender of part of Islam. These
positions are reflected in the Covenant, and of course in its activities.
The central goal of Hamas is the establishment of an Islamic
state in all of Palestine. The immediate means to achieve this goal is the
escalation of the armed struggle, and ultimately all-out Jihad, with the
participation not only of Palestinian Muslims but of the entire Islamic world.
The structure of Hamas in Gaza and in the West Bank is based
on a combination of regional and functional organization. In this framework,
several identical, parallel frameworks operate in each region:
a. Infrastructure (Da?wah, literally "sermonizing"),
which engages in recruitment, distribution of funds, and appointments.
b. Popular violence in the framework of the Intifada.
c. Security (Aman) - the gathering of information on
suspected collaborators with the authorities. This information is passed on to
the "shock committees", who interrogate and then kill the suspects.
d. Publications (A-'Alam) - leaflets, propaganda, press
Hamas tries to maintain a clear
distinction between the covert activity of its various sections and its overt
activity, which serves primarily to broaden the ranks of the movement. The major
reason for this is Hamas' desire to increase compartimentation and secrecy, by
not identifying itself directly with its public activity.
The term generally used by Hamas to define its overt activity
is Da'wah. This term is also the name given to the Hamas section
whose function is to broaden the movement's infrastructure, to distribute funds
and make appointments. In fact, there is a large degree of overlapping (if not
total identity) between the two.
Thus, Hamas is an organization composed of several
interdependent levels. The popular-social base is maintained materially by the
charity committees and ideologically through instruction, propaganda and
incitement delivered in the mosques and other institutions and through leaflets.
This base is the source for the recruitment of members into the units which
engage in riots and popular violence.
Those who distinguish themselves in riots and popular violence
sooner or later find their way into the military apparatus, which carries out
brutal and violent attacks against Israelis and Palestinians alike. The
militants (and, if they are arrested or killed, their families and relatives)
enjoy the moral and economic backing of the preachers in the mosques, the
directors of Hamas-affiliated institutions, and the charity committees.
The Military arm
From the outset, alongside the "popular" Intifada-related violence on the street
level, Hamas run a military-terrorist arm, composed of two groups:
a. The Palestinian Holy Fighters (Al-Majahadoun Al-Falestinioun),
a military apparatus for terrorist attacks, especially against Israeli
targets. Before the outbreak of the Intifada, it engaged primarily in the
preparation of the infrastructure for its activity.
b. The Security Section (Jehaz Aman), which gathered
information on suspected collaborators with Israel and other local elements,
with the intention of punishing them by the use of violence, including murder.
To this end, units were formed within the framework of the Majd ?
an Arabic acronym for Majmouath Jihad u-Dawa (Holy War and
Sermonizing Group), which was in effect the violent operational arm of the
In the course of the Intifada, these groups took on various
forms, the latest of which being the Izz al-Din al-Qassam hit
The groundwork for the founding of Al-Majahadoun Al-Falestinioun
was laid in 1982 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, together with several operatives of Al-Majama.
This included arms procurement and laying the groundwork for the struggle
against Palestinian rivals, to be used later also against Israel. This activity
was uncovered in 1984, and Yassin was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was
released shortly afterwards as part of the Jibril prisoner exchange (May 1985).
Upon his release, Yassin resumed his work of setting up a
military apparatus. At first, emphasis was placed on the struggle against
'heretics' and collaborators, in accordance with the view of the Muslim
Brotherhood that Jihad should come only after the purging of rivals from within.
At the same time, a military infrastructure was prepared, including the
stockpiling of weapons for the war against Israel. Shortly before the outbreak
of the Intifada, operatives were recruited to carry out the military Jihad.
Organized military activity by this group, including regular terrorist attacks,
became manifest only after the beginning of the Intifada.
Following the outbreak of the Intifada, the military apparatus
carried out a large number of attacks of various kinds, including bombings and
gunfire, mostly in the northern part of the Gaza District. These attacks reached
their climax with the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldiers Avi Sasportas
(February 1989) and Ilan Sa'adon (May 1989).
The Security Section and the Majd Units
The Security Section (Jehaz Aman) was
established in early 1986 by Sheikh Yassin together with two of his associates,
who were also active in Al-Majama. The role of the section was to conduct
surveillance of suspected collaborators and other Palestinians who acted in a
manner which ran counter to the principles of Islam (drug dealers, sellers of
pornography, etc.). In late 1986 - early 1987, on the recommendation of the two
heads of the security section, Yassin decided to set up hit squads, known as
Majd, whose purpose was to kill 'heretics' and collaborators. Yassin instructed
the leaders that they must kill anyone who admitted under interrogation to being
a collaborator, and reinforced this instruction with a religious ruling.
This mode of action continued until the outbreak of the
Intifada, when Hamas? approach underwent significant changes, leading to the
beginning of organized military action against Israeli targets as well. The Majd
units then became part of the Al-Majahadoun network.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Squads
The military apparatus of Hamas underwent several changes in
the course of the Intifada, as a result of preventive measures and exposure by
the Israeli forces following major terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas
operatives. The last form which this apparatus has taken is the Izz al-Din al-Qassam
Squads, which is responsible for most of the serious attacks carried out by
Hamas since January 1, 1992. These squads include dozens of wanted suspects from
Gaza. Some of these suspects began to operate in the West Bank as well, while
recruiting Palestinians from this area to carry out attacks inside Israel (the
murder of a border guard in Jerusalem and the planting of a car bomb in Ramat
Efal, near Tel Aviv). Some members of these squads have been apprehended or
killed, and some have fled to Egypt. Several dozen Hamas operatives remain
active in the Territories, most of them members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam
Hamas enjoys strong financial backing.
In fact, its rivals claim that this is major reason for its strength. Hamas
receives financial support from unofficial bodies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf
states, and recently also from Iran. These funds are distributed among the
various groups and associations identified with the movement, and from them
filter down to the operatives in the field.
A broad network of charity associations (Jamayath Hiriya)
and committees (Lejan Zekath) operates in the Territories, on the
basis of two Jordanian statutes: the Charity Association and Social Institutions
Law, and the Charity Fund-Raising Regulations. Hamas makes extensive use of many
of these charity associations and committees, which (together with the mosques,
unions, etc.) also serve as the overt facade of the organization's activity,
operating parallel to and serving its covert operations. The movement's ideology
attributes great importance to the giving of charity (zekath,
which is also one of the five basic principles of Islam). Giving charity can
serve to bring the people closer to Islam and, as a result, to broaden the ranks
The network of charity associations serves as a screen for its
covert activities, including liaison with the movement's leadership abroad, the
transfer of funds to field operatives, and the identification of potential
recruits. The great importance which Hamas attaches to the overt aspect of its
operations - charity and welfare - has been particularly evident since the
extensive arrest and exclusion of many of its operatives.
An important aspect of the charity associations and committees
is their role as a means for the channeling of funds into the region. While part
of these funds is in fact used for charity, it is not always possible to
distinguish between the 'innocent' activity of the charity associations and the
funding of covert, subversive and terrorist activity. Thus, for example, the
associations pay fines and assist the families of operatives who are arrested,
or the operatives themselves. Such donations are defined as charity, but are in
fact given to the hard and active core of Hamas. The charity associations can
also help in transfering funds to Hamas through their financial-administrative
The methods commonly used to transfer funds are through
moneychangers, checks drawn on accounts of operatives and firms abroad, foreign
business accounts of economic concerns in the Territories, and direct cash
transfers from abroad, usually through Western banks (in Britain, the U.S. and
Germany). The Islamic Movement in Israel also serves as a channel for the
transfer of funds.
Sources of funding.
Estimating the amount of money reaching Hamas is complex task,
but a modest estimate is several tens of millions of dollars per year.
Sources of funding abroad:
a. Official sources: the government of Iran contributes
approximately 3 million dollars per year for all Hamas activities.
b. There are four central Hamas charity funds in the West:
Great Britain - The Palestine Relief and Development Fund (Interpal); U.S.A. -
the Holy Land Foundation; Germany - the Al Aqsa Foundation, with branches in
Belgium and Holland; France - Comite de Bienfaisance et Solidarite avec la
Funding from other Islamic organizations: (not Hamas):
a. Non-governmental charitable organizations in the Gulf
states - generally, they collect charity for needy Muslims throughout the
world, and as part of this effort they support Hamas and its social and
b. Islamic aid agencies in the West - these rely on the
Islamic community in the West, numbering about 15 million. Among these: Muslim
Aid, and the Islamic Relief Agency - ISRA.
c. The Muslim Brotherhood - In the late 1980s the
Brotherhood established the Muslim Aid Committee to the Palestinian Nation in
order to aid Hamas.
Independent sources of funding in the Territories:
a. A small portion of Hamas funds come from a limited number
of profitable economic projects: sewing and weaving centers, cattle farms, and
symbolic payment for services.
b. Fund-raising campaigns throughout the Territories -
heightened supervision by the U.S. and Egypt of the fund-raising in the Gulf
states has encouraged this internal independent fund-raising method.
a. The Islamic Movement in Israel has served as a channel
for transferring money from foundations in the West. Since Israel closed two
central bodies - the Committee for Aid to Orphans and Prisoners (November
1996) and Islamic Aid (in 1995) - use of this channel has decreased
b. Most of these foundations have representatives in the
Territories and operate under an umbrella organization established in 1995.
The battle against financing:
Terrorist attacks and the uncovering of Hamas' financial
apparatus have led Western intelligence operatives to begin monitoring its
funding activity. Several countries (principally the U.S. and Great Britain)
have announced their intent to frustrate Hamas fundraising efforts.
a. U.S. - a legislation package intended to hinder
fundraising for terrorist organizations within U.S. territory. The governement
has yet to exercise its power to act against these organizations.
b. Britain - Records of the Interpal relief foundation were
examined, but "no concrete information was found linking it to terror
organizations." It must be noted that the only material examined was that
which the foundation itself submitted to the authorities.
c. Israel - illegalization: In May of this year, the
Minister of Defense declared the four major foundations operating in the West
to be illegal associations, as part of the Hamas activity outlawed in Israel.
The movement's organ, Falestin al-Muslima, was outlawed as well.
Sheikh Ahmad Isma`il Yassin, was born in 1936 in the village of al-Jora
near Ashquelon. At the age of 14 he was wounded during a soccer game and became
partly paralyzed. Yassin finished his high-school studies in 1958 and in spite
of his invalidity was accepted as teacher in one of the neighborhoods of Gaza.
Sheikh Yassin was received as member of the Muslim Brotherhood
in Gaza in 1955, while it was a clandestine movement outlawed in Egypt, which
controlled the Strip. In 1966 Sheikh Yassin was imprisoned during a month by the
Egyptian authorities for subversive activity.
After the Six Day War and the loss of contact with Egypt,
Sheikh Yassin gradually developed the infrastructure of the Muslim Brothers in
the Gaza Strip in the social, economic and political field and pushed the
militants of the organization to take control of the newly built Islamic
Yassin was the moving spirit behind the
founding of the Hamas movement in December 1987 as the military arm of the
He was arrested in 1984 and imprisoned for detention of
weapons. He was later freed in the framework of an exchange of prisoners with
Ahmad Jibril's PFLP - GC organization.
Sheikh Yassin, who headed Hamas until his arrest in May 1989,
was responsible for most of the movement's activities: the writing of leaflets,
financial affairs, liaison with radical Islamic elements abroad, and supervision
of violent and terrorist activity. Under him, a broad organizational network was
set up, comprising various functions and local leaders, which directed the
political and Intifada-related work of the movement: distributing
leaflets, organizing riots, enforcing strikes, etc.
Following the arrest of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and other leading
operatives from the Gaza District, the centralized Hamas leadership in the
Territories was weakened. It was replaced by a backbone of senior
leaders/operatives identified with the movement, who directed its activity in
the different regions. They focused primarily on politics, propaganda,
infrastructure, and inter-organizational liaison, while competing with
Palestinian nationalists for election to positions of power in various bodies
(such as trade unions).
Musa Mohammed Abu Marzuq
was born in 1951, in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He went to Egypt
to study engineering and upon his return to Gaza became a close collaborator of
Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, then the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Strip. Abu
Marzuq was among the founders of the Hamas movement in 1988.
In 1974 he left Gaza for the United States, where he continued
his studies in engineering. Between 1981 and 1992 he lived with his family in
Falls Church, Virginia.
In 1989 Abu Marzuq was elected the head of the Political
Bureau of Hamas, which is the movement's most senior leadership body in
decisions on central matters such as the policy of terrorist attacks, issuing
directives to activists to operate in the Israel, in the Territories, and in
Hamas areas of operation abroad.
Between the years 1990 and 1993 Abu Marzuq dispatched
emissaries on a number of occasions to the Territories for the purpose of
arranging and expanding the military activity of the Hamas. In this framework,
he transferred funds to the Territories, for acquiring weapons to be used later
to carry out terrorist attacks.
In 1989, Abu Marzuq arrived in Gaza, met with activists of the
Hamas organization, appointed them to be responsible for organizing various
apparatuses and determined the distribution of area responsibility within the
Gaza Strip. He also issued detailed instructions for setting up an
organizational infrastructure for Hamas, including terrorist actions. To finance
this activity he transferrto the activists the sum of about $100,000.
In October 1992 Abu Marzuq headed a Hamas delegation to Tehran
for the purpose of concluding a number of political and military cooperation
agreements with Iran.
Abu Marzuq has also been instrumental in the organization's
continuing relationship with the PLO. Subsequent to the Israel's expulsion of
413 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists to southern Lebanon in late 1992, he acted
as Hamas' chief representative in negotiations with the PLO in Tunis.
Subsequent to the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, in May of
1995, Abu Marzuq was ordered to leave Jordan by June 1, 1995. Working from
Jordan, Abu Marzuq has been involved in coordinating Hamas terrorist attacks
within Israel, including the April 1994 bombings in Afula and Hadera.
Abu Marzuq was arrested in New York on July 25, 1995 upon one
of his trips back to the US. Israel asked his extradition and an American judge
decided in May 1996 that he can be expelled for trial in Israel. But upon a
decision of the Israeli government, Abu Marzuq was finally expelled to Jordan in
Prominent religious leaders identified with Hamas have
recently formed the Association of Religious Sages of Palestine (Rabitat 'Ulama'
Filastin), which is to serve as a kind of supreme religious framework and to
accord the movement 'legitimacy' through religious rulings that conform with the
Hamas leaders residing abroad -- in Arab
countries (primarily Jordan) and in the West (the U.S., Britain, and others) --
have also recently gained prominence.
In the beginning of the uprising the movement was particularly
active in the field of subversion and resistance (street disturbances of the
peace, trade strikes and etc)
During the period prior to the Intifada, Hamas members
(in its earlier form of the Al-Mujama' al-Islami) operated primarily
against local Palestinians, such as moral offenders and criminal elements, in
order to purge Muslim society and to prepare it for Jihad against Israel.
After the outbreak of the Intifada, the same people and new recruits
began to assassinate Palestinians. In the course of the Intifada, Hamas
operatives have admitted to 43 such attacks, in which 46 Palestinians were
killed. On the basis of intelligence information, about 40 more murders of
Palestinians can be attributed to Hamas members.
In the course of the Intifada, Hamas operatives also
began to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. At first they
resorted primarily to explosive charges and other 'popular' means (firebombs,
arson and other property damage). In the course of 1989, they kidnapped and
murdered two soldiers (Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon). In December 1990, three
Israelis employed in a Jaffa factory were stabbed to death.
In 1992, Hamas operatives displayed even greater daring,
especially the militants of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam squads, who fired on
security personnel at short range, stabbed two Jews to death in a packing plant
in the Gaza District, kidnapped and killed Nissim Toledano, and finally murdered
a General Security Service (GSS) officer in a safehouse in Jerusalem.
Until his arrest Sheikh Yassin was involved in the activity of
the terrorist branch as well as the activity of its other apparatuses to the
smallest details. He supervised the recruitment of activists, organized them
into squads, provided them with money, and most importantly took care of weapons
and their distribution among the squads.
Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (Arabic:
Islamic Resistance Movement) is a
Islamist paramilitary and political organization. It was founded by
Mohammad Taha in late
1987 as an
outgrowth of the
Muslim Brotherhood and is dedicated to the destruction of
Israel and the
creation of an
Islamic state in Palestine. Hamas is led by
Khaled Mashaal. Hamas's heartland is the
but it also operates in the
Hamas is a
terrorist organization according to Israel, the
United States and more recently the
European Union. Part of its support rests on its provision of welfare and
charity for the Palestinian poor as well as its militarized views. Hamas is
known in the West for its tactic of
suicide bombings against Israel, especially
in busy city areas. Hamas also attacks the Israeli military and security forces
in its effort to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and also to
destroy the state of Israel (which the group sees as occupied Palestinian land).
as an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims
and asserts that waging holy war (jihad)
to wrest control of Palestine from Israel is a religious duty for Palestinian
Muslims. This position is in stark contrast to that of the
PLO, which in
recognized Israel's right to exist.
According to the
Washington Institute, Hamas views the
Arab-Israeli conflict as "a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism
that can only be resolved by the destruction of the State of Israel."
Hamas uses both political activities and
actions such as
suicide bombings to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic
Palestinian state in place of Israel and the secular
Palestinian Authority. As of 2004, Hamas's strength is concentrated in the
and a few areas of the
Hamas strength in the
has been reduced dramatically by the Israeli military operations during the Al
Aqsa Intifada in 2002 following several bloody bombings that Hamas took
responsibility for. Hamas has also engaged in peaceful political activity, such
as running candidates in West Bank
Chamber of Commerce elections.
Hamas is an abbreviation of
Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (Arabic:
Islamic Resistance Movement), and the name itself is colloquial Arabic
for "enthusiasm". Its military wing is usually named the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam
Brigades (to commemorate
Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the father of modern Arab resistance, killed by
the British in 1935).
Armed Hamas cells also sometimes name themselves Students of Ayyash,
Students of the Engineer or Yahya Ayyash Units,
Ayash, the bomb engineer responsible for the deaths of more than 50 Israelis
and killed in 1996.
The founding charter of Hamas, written in 1988, states that its goal is to
"raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine", i.e. to eliminate the
State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established),
and replace it with an Islamist theocracy or
The charter cites a number of
conspiracy theories; it claims that
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are genuine; and that the
Rotarians all secretly "work in the interest of Zionism." Hamas members
further allege that the Jewish people are collectively responsible for the
French Revolution, "Western colonialism", Communism, and both World Wars.
Top Hamas leaders are promoters of
Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi held that the
never occurred, that Zionists were behind the action of
Nazis, and that
Hamas was funded directly and indirectly during
the 1970s and
1980s by various
Arabia and Syria.
The political/charitable arm of Hamas was officially registered and recognised
at this time. Most experts agree that while
supported Hamas directly, it did allow it to exist to oppose the secular
Fatah movement of
Yasser Arafat. The group abstained from politics throughout the 1970s and
early 1980s, concentrating on moral and social issues such as attacks on
administration of awqaf (trusts) and organizing community
Towards the mid-1980s, however, the movement underwent a takeover by the
militant faction led by
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. For a while, he preached immediate violence and was
arrested by Israel for that. However he was released when he promised to stop
the preaching, and the movement was allowed to continue.
The acronym "Hamas" first appeared in 1987 in a
leaflet accusing Israeli
intelligence services of undermining the moral fibre of Palestinian youth as
part of their recruitment of "collaborators".
The use of force by Hamas appeared almost contemporaneously with the first
beginning with "punishments against collaborators", progressing to Israeli
military targets and eventually actions targeted at civilians. As its methods
have changed over the last thirty years, so has its rhetoric, now effectively
claiming that Israeli civilians are "military targets" by virtue of living in a
highly militarized state with
According to the semi-official Hamas biography
"Truth and existence", Hamas evolved through four main stages:
Construction of the
Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip in the face of "oppressive
Geographical expansion through participation in professional associations in
Strip and the
and institution-building, notably al-Mujamma`
al-islami, al-Jam`iyya al-islamiyya, and the Islamic University in
Political influence through establishment of the mechanisms of action and
preparation for armed struggle.
1987: Founding of
Hamas as the combatant arm of the
Muslim Brotherhood in
and the launching of a continuing jihad.
Since Hamas underwent a take-over in the
mid-1980s (before that time being an organization with an extremely limited
political scope), many experts might agree that Hamas's "real" history begins
only from that time.
Whilst this reflects the activities of Hamas in
Strip, their colleagues in the
had a very different development, with less emphasis at the beginning on the
creation or control of public
Muslim Brotherhood movement in the
constituted an integral part of the Jordanian Islamic movement, which for many
years had been aligned with the
Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank represented a higher socio-economic
professionals. By the mid-1980s, the
Muslim Brotherhood held a significant portion of the positions in West Bank
Pro-Israel commentators have recently suggested
that there is a close relationship between the
2004, senior Hamas
Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi offered a 10-year
hudna in return
for complete withdrawal from all territories captured in the
War, and the establishment of a state. There had earlier been some talks
within Hamas about doing this but this time, according to him, "the movement has
taken a decision on this". Hamas leader Sheikh
Yassin said recently the group could accept a Palestinian state in the
Strip. Rantissi stated that Hamas had come to the conclusion that it was
"difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased
liberation." Rantissi said the truce could last 10 years, though "not more than
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated in an Israeli missile strike. Following
Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi replaced him as the leader of Hamas. On
he stated in a speech given at the Islamic University of
that "America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God, and God
declared war against America, Bush and Sharon."
2004, Rantissi was also killed in an airstrike by the
Israel Defense Forces, five hours after a fatal
suicide bombing by Hamas. With the death of Rantissi, the top three Hamas
leaders in Gaza
have been killed since
2003. As a result,
Khaled Mashaal, overall leader of Hamas, who is based in
Syria, said Hamas
should not disclose the name of its next leader in
2004, according to the
Providence, Rhode Island, found Hamas guilty in a civil
resulting from the 1996
murder of Yaron
Ungar and Efrat Ungar in
was ordered to
pay the family
of Yaron and Efrat Ungar $116
court has not yet ruled regarding the liability of the Palestinian Authority and
2004, Hamas secretly selected a new leader in the
fearing that he will be killed if his identity is known.
As of late April
2004, it is
believed that the new leader of Hamas in Gaza is
Mahmoud A-Zahar, the second-in-command,
Ismail Haniya, and third in authority is
As of 2004, Israeli military and intelligence
sources believed that the Hamas infrastructure in the
Gaza Strip has been significantly weakened by targeted assassination and
Israeli military operations that came in response to a number of very bloody
suicide attacks in 2002 and 2003 (see below). Israeli sources have supported
this assertion by noting that no prominent attacks have been carried out or
West Bank based Hamas militants (whereas bombings by
Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades did occur), even though reputedly Hamas leadership
had ordered an escalation of attacks, especially after the assassinations of
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and
Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi. The West Bank has been placed under a significant
level of Israeli military control during
Operation Defensive Shield launched in the spring of 2003 severly limiting
the mobility and organization of the remaining Hamas members.
on the other hand, Hamas was generally seen as a major force, rivaling
Fatah movement. Apparently, its social base in
Gaza was very
In 2004 in a prelude to the planned Israeli
withdrawal from the
Israeli forces have carried out a number of incursions in
seeking to draw out into the open and kill Hamas-affiliated gunmen who have
often engaged Israeli soldiers in skirmishes. This was done, presumably, to make
it harder for a weakened and bloodied Hamas to claim the withdrawal as their own
hard-won victory. Awareness of high casualties during such incursions have led
the Hamas leadership to call its activists to avoid putting themselves in the
line of fire needlessly.
Hamas militants, especially those in the Izz
el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks, including large-scale
suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets. These include the
Passover massacre in
in which 30 people were killed; the
Jerusalem bus 20 massacre in November 2002 (11 dead); the
Jerusalem bus 2 massacre in
2003 (23 dead); and many more. In total, hundreds of Israeli civilians were
killed in these suicide attacks between the years 2000 and 2004. Hamas uses
female suicide bombers, including a mother of six and a mother of two
children under the age of 10. Anonymous Israeli military sources state that the
women were allowed to commit these
acts in place of being the victims of an
killing. Hamas denies this.
Hamas does not use
child suicide bombers (as of March 2004).
Hamas has also attacked Israeli military and
security forces targets (mostly inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip and
occasionally inside Israel), suspected Palestinian collaborators, and
Recently, Hamas has used
Qassam rockets to hit Israeli towns in the Negev, such as
introduction of the
Qassam-2 rocket has allowed Hamas to attack large Israeli cities such as
bringing great concern to the Israeli populace and many attempts by the Israeli
military to stop the proliferation and use of the rockets.
In addition to its paramilitary and terrorist
activities, Hamas has many relief and
programs. These programs are viewed variously as part of an integrated
para-state policy, as
recruitment exercises, or both.
Hamas has an unknown number of hardcore members
and tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers. It receives funding from
Iran, and from private benefactors in
Arabia and in other
Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in
America. Like Hezbollah, Hamas has been known to use illicit drug sales to
raise funds for its operations.
In addition to its paramilitary activities,
Hamas funds a number of charitable activites, primarily in the
These include religious institutions, medical facilities, and social needs of
the area's residents. The work of Hamas in these fields is in addition to that
provided by the
United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). The
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was accused in
2001 of funding
Hamas is believed to operate dozens of
websites. A current listing can be found at Internet-Haganah (External link
The main website of Hamas (http://www.palestine-info.info/)
provides translations of official communiques and
in Farsi (see
Palestinian Authority is losing control to Hamas, namely the
Jabaliya refugee camp and the neighboring neighborhood of Jabaliya in the
north of the Strip and the
Dir al-Balah area in the center of the Strip, Abasan to the south of it and
Dahaniyeh region in the south.