What is Hamas? A simple guide to the armed Palestinian group

Hamas: A Simple Guide to the Armed Palestinian Group

Hamas, which stands for “Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya” in Arabic (meaning Islamic Resistance Movement), is a Palestinian political and militant organization with a complex history and a significant presence in the Palestinian territories. Here’s a simplified guide to understanding Hamas:

1. Background:

  • Founding: Hamas was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation) in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
  • Origins: It emerged as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political and religious organization with a presence throughout the Arab world.

2. Ideology:

  • Islamic: Hamas is deeply rooted in Islamist ideology, seeking to establish Islamic rule in historic Palestine, including Israel, based on its interpretation of Islamic law.
  • Resistance: It sees armed struggle as a legitimate means to achieve its goals, including the liberation of Palestinian territories.

3. Objectives:

  • End Israeli Occupation: Hamas’s primary goal is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
  • Rejection of Israel: Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and opposes any peace negotiations that don’t meet its demands.

4. Political Wing:

  • Dual Role: Hamas has both a political and a military/militant wing.
  • Elections: In 2006, Hamas won Palestinian Legislative Council elections, gaining control of the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority retained control of the West Bank.

5. Armed Wing:

  • Qassam Brigades: Hamas’s military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is responsible for armed operations, including rocket attacks against Israel.

6. Social Services:

  • Charitable Work: Hamas operates schools, hospitals, and other social services in Palestinian territories, providing support to impoverished communities. This has contributed to its popularity in some areas.

7. International Status:

  • Terrorist Designation: Israel, the United States, the European Union, and other countries classify Hamas as a terrorist organization due to its use of violence and rejection of Israel’s right to exist.

8. Regional Dynamics:

  • Regional Allies: Hamas has received support from countries such as Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, while facing opposition from some Arab states aligned with Israel.

9. Conflict with Israel:

  • Rocket Attacks: Periodically, Hamas and Israel engage in conflicts, with Hamas launching rocket attacks into Israel and Israel responding with military operations in Gaza.

10. Peace Process:Obstacle: Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel and its commitment to armed struggle have posed challenges to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Understanding Hamas requires recognizing its dual role as both a political entity and a militant organization, its complex ideological underpinnings, and its significant impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and regional dynamics.

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