What is Hamas: An In-Depth Exploration of the Palestinian Islamist Organization

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What is Hamas

What is Hamas

Formation and Background

Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah), translated as the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization. It was founded in December 1987 during the First Intifada, an uprising against Israeli rule in the Palestinian territories. The founding of Hamas was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization originating in Egypt. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, and Mahmoud Zahar are among the key figures in the establishment of Hamas.

Ideology and Objectives

Hamas’s charter, published in 1988, outlines its goals and ideology. The organization is dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state in historic Palestine, which includes present-day Israel and the Palestinian territories. The charter explicitly rejects the existence of Israel and calls for its destruction, advocating for armed struggle against Israeli occupation. While the charter includes anti-Semitic rhetoric, some leaders have suggested that the document is historical and does not necessarily reflect current policies.

Political and Military Wings

Hamas operates both a political wing and a military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Political Wing

The political wing of Hamas engages in social services, governance, and political activities. After winning a majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 following a conflict with the rival Fatah party. Since then, it has governed Gaza, implementing various social and welfare programs and engaging in international diplomacy to some extent.

Military Wing

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is responsible for the organization’s militant activities. It has carried out numerous attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets, including rocket attacks, suicide bombings, and other forms of armed resistance. The military wing is considered by many countries, including the United States, the European Union, and Israel, as a terrorist organization due to its use of violence against civilian targets.

Governance in Gaza

Since taking control of Gaza, Hamas has established a de facto government, overseeing aspects of daily life, from security to health and education. This governance has been marked by frequent conflicts with Israel, leading to several large-scale military operations by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. These conflicts have resulted in significant casualties and destruction, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the territory.

International Relations and Support

Hamas receives support from various international actors, including Iran, which provides financial aid, weapons, and training. The organization also enjoys varying degrees of support from other Islamist groups and certain regional powers sympathetic to its cause. However, its designation as a terrorist organization by many countries has led to international isolation and sanctions.

Criticism and Controversy

Hamas has been widely criticized for its tactics, particularly its attacks on civilian targets, use of human shields, and the suppression of political dissent within Gaza. The organization’s governance has also faced scrutiny for issues related to human rights, such as the treatment of political opponents and restrictions on freedoms.

Recent Developments

In recent years, there have been intermittent efforts to reconcile with the Fatah party and achieve Palestinian unity, though these have largely been unsuccessful. The ongoing conflict with Israel remains a central focus, with periodic escalations in violence. Hamas continues to maintain its stance against Israeli occupation, while also facing internal challenges related to governance and economic conditions in Gaza.


Hamas is a complex and multifaceted organization that plays a significant role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its blend of militant activities, political governance, and social services reflects its dual identity as both a resistance movement and a governing authority. The international community remains divided on how to engage with Hamas, balancing concerns over terrorism with the realities of its political influence in Palestinian territories.

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