What is Hamas?

Hamas is a Palestinian political and military organization founded in 1987 during the First Intifada. It governs the Gaza Strip and has both political and military wings. While considered a legitimate resistance movement by some, it is classified as a terrorist organization by entities such as Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

Hamas: Overview and Background

Founding and Context:

Hamas was established in 1987 during the First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories. The organization emerged as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab religious and political movement.

Name and Meaning:

The name “Hamas” is an acronym for “Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya”, which translates to “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

Charter and Objectives:

Originally, Hamas’s 1988 charter called for the establishment of an Islamic state in historic Palestine, encompassing what is now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. Over time, there have been indications from some Hamas leaders of a potential acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, but the complete recognition of Israel remains a contentious point.

Political and Military Structure:

  • Political Wing: This part of Hamas is responsible for governance, especially in the Gaza Strip, and diplomatic relations with other entities. It has representatives who have been elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council.
  • Military Wing: Known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, this wing conducts armed operations against Israeli targets, including rocket attacks, kidnappings, and suicide bombings.

Governing the Gaza Strip:

After winning the majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, tensions between Hamas and the rival faction, Fatah, led to a brief conflict in 2007. Following this, Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip, leading to a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

International Perception and Relations:

  • Hamas is viewed by many Palestinians as a legitimate resistance movement against Israeli occupation.
  • However, due to its use of suicide bombings and rocket attacks targeting civilians, it is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries.
  • The group has ties with countries like Iran, Turkey, and Qatar, which have offered varying levels of support.

 

Attempts at Reconciliation:

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to bridge the gap between Hamas and Fatah, aiming to achieve Palestinian unity. These efforts have met with varying degrees of success.

The Israel-Hamas conflict refers to a series of violent confrontations between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas’s establishment in 1987, the group has been involved in numerous skirmishes, rocket attacks, suicide bombings, and large-scale conflicts with Israel. Here’s a broad overview of the major confrontations:

2006-2007:

Following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas won a surprise majority. Tensions between Hamas and the rival Fatah faction escalated into a brief civil war, resulting in Hamas seizing control of Gaza in June 2007. In response, Israel intensified its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

2008-2009 (Operation Cast Lead):

After months of rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, Israel launched a three-week military campaign in Gaza in December 2008. The operation ended in January 2009 with a unilateral ceasefire by both parties. Around 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were reported killed.

2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense):

Sparked by increasing rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel launched an eight-day operation in November 2012. The conflict concluded with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. More than 150 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during this operation.

2014 (Operation Protective Edge):

This was a seven-week conflict that began in July 2014. It was the deadliest and most destructive confrontation to date, with over 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis killed. The conflict began following a series of events, including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the subsequent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager. A ceasefire was reached in late August.

May 2021:

A major escalation occurred following tensions in Jerusalem over potential evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Over 11 days, Hamas and other groups fired rockets into Israel, and Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza. Over 230 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis were killed before a ceasefire was brokered.

Sept-Oct 2023:

The reasons behind the September-October 2023 war between Israel and Hamas are complex and multifaceted. However, some of the key factors include:

  • The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The blockade has had a devastating impact on the economy and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and it is one of the main reasons why Hamas remains popular among the Palestinian people.
  • The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are illegal under international law, and they have made it increasingly difficult for Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict.
  • Religious tensions. The two sides have different religious beliefs and practices, and this can lead to conflict.
  • The current political situation in Israel. The current Israeli government is a right-wing government that is opposed to the two-state solution. This has made it difficult for Israel and Hamas to reach a peace agreement.

In addition to these general factors, there are also a number of specific events that contributed to the outbreak of the war in September 2023. These include:

  • The arrest of a Palestinian activist in Jerusalem.
  • The eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem.
  • The storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police.

These events sparked protests and violence in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Hamas responded by firing rockets at Israel, and Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza.

The war was extremely deadly, and it caused widespread suffering on both sides. It is important to note that there is no single cause of the war between Israel and Hamas. It is a complex conflict with a long history, and the factors that have contributed to it are numerous.

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