A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) Narrative


Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement)

Last Update

January 2015

Aliases

Harakat al-Muqawammah al-Islammiyya; Islamic Resistance Movement

History

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist group formed in 1987, following the first Intifada, a Palestinian protest against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.[1] Formed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and the West Bank, the 1988 Hamas charter called for the use of violence to achieve their objectives,[2] which included establishment of an Islamic society within historic Palestine and destruction of the state of Israel, and the replacement of the Palestinian Authority in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[3] Despite this, in 1999 Hamas agreed to discontinue hostilities if Israel agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.[4]

Hamas began using suicide bombers in April 1993, five months before the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hamas still opposes the Oslo Accords, which established the current Palestinian Authority and control for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[5]

Khaled Meshaal currently leads Hamas after assuming leadership in 2004. Its armed wing is the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, created in 1991. The wing carries out most of the physical attacks perpetrated by Hamas and stands as the group’s military force.[6] Hamas also has a security branch known as the Executive Force, formed in 2006 in order to counter Fatah forces after their election into government.[7]

The group entered government after winning 76 out of 132 seats, and gained control over the Palestinian Authority legislature and cabinet, ruling out the previously dominated Fatah Party.[8] Hamas, installed Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh. Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah Party, retained his position as President. However, clashed between the groups broke out in 2007.In 2014, Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact that ended seven years of conflict, as well as created an interim government until parliamentary and presidential elections could be held.[9]

In addition to tax revenues and "import duties," Hamas finances itself through private donations, Islamic charities, and Palestinian expatriates.[10] Such transfers generally pass through the "Union of Good," which networks with various donor organizations.[11] Additionally, the Iranian government sponsored the group until about 2011 or 2012, ending due to differences of opinion in supporting the Asad regime.[12]

Home Base

Palestinian Territories (Gaza Strip)

Founding Year

1987

Ideology

  • Religious-Islamist-Sunni
  • Ethnic-Separatist-Palestinian.[13]

Specific Goals

  • Establish an Islamic state within the historic borders of Palestine.[14]
  • Destruction of the state of Israel[15]
  • Replacement of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a Hamas-controlled government in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[16]

Political Activity

  • Their political wing is known as the Change and Reform Party.[17]
  • After boycotting the 2005 presidential election, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the January 2006 elections.[18]
    • The party won 76 out of 132 seats giving them control of the Palestinian Authority legislature and cabinet.[19]
    • Hamas installed Ismail Haniyeh as Prime Minister, but Mahmoud Abbas (leader of Fatah) retained his position as President.[20]
  • In 2014, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation pact that created an interim government for both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[21] 
    • Parliamentary and presidential elections for a unity government between the two groups were/are scheduled to follow within a year.[22] 

Financing

  • State Sponsorship: Iran has historically funded the group, but its financial support was halved in 2011 or 2012 due to differences between Hamas and the Iranian government concerning the Iranian government’s support for the Asad regime.[23]
  • Charities/Donations: Hamas additionally receives funding from various private donors, Palestinian expatriates around the world and through its umbrella fundraising organization, Union of Good, which was created after the second intifada.[24] The organization links various Islamic charities together to contribute to funding Hamas. This umbrella fundraising organization was created in order for Hamas to transfer and receive funds in a less direct manner, and is estimated to transfer tens of millions of dollars to Hamas.[25]
  • Other: Since the group’s 2006 election into government, it additionally receives funding through public funding.[26] However, Hamas has no access to any foreign aid provided to the Palestinian Authority.

Leadership and Structure over Time

  • The Shura Council is the overarching governing council that deals with policies and decision-making.[27]
  • Hamas also operates paramilitary wings, such as Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the External Force, which were formed in 1991 and 2006 respectively.[28]
  • 2004-Present: Khaled Meshaal[29]

Strength

  • 2012: 7,000-10,000 armed members are estimated to be a part of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, with over 20,000 reserves and 9,000 operatives in the Executive Force.[30]

Allies and Suspected Allies

  • Iran (state sponsor)
    • Iran provided funding and other support to Hamas until 2011 or 2012.[31]
  • Fatah
    • Although the two groups have experienced violent clashes and disputes over leadership in Palestine they have also collaborated at points.
    • With Hamas’ majority win in the PLC, Al-Fatah and Hamas originally tried to coexist by creating a unity government with Abbas as the leader.[32]
    • During April of 2014, Hamas and Fatah officially reached a peace agreement that ended their rivalry and disputes.[33]
    • The two agreed to create a unity government and plan to hold general elections in December 2014.[34] However, elections were postponed and, as of September 2015, have not been held.[35]
  • Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) (ally)
    • DFLP and Hamas have collaborated occasionally and launched joint attacks against Israel.[36]
  • Hizballah (ally)
    • Hizballah provides military training, financial and logistical support to Hamas.[37]
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (suspected ally)
    • PFLP have shown occasional signs of collaboration and joint attacks.[38]
  • Popular Resistance Committees (ally)
    • The Popular Resistance Committees conduct joint attacks and share members.[39]

Rivals and Enemies

  • Israel (target, enemy)
    • The 1988 Hamas charter called for the destruction of the state of Israel.[40]
  • Fatah
    • The political success of Hamas in 2006 spurred a strong rivalry between Hamas and Al-Fatah.[41]
    • A success for Hamas represented a major loss for Fatah, Hamas members represented 76 of the 132 legislative seats, with Fatah winning only 43 spots.[42]
    • During June of 2007, violence broke out between the two resulting Hamas’ taking over Gaza.[43]
    • Hamas has established power in Gaza while Fatah remains powerful with the PA in the West Bank—thus creating two separate governments, one led by Hamas in Gaza, and one led by Fatah in the West Bank.[44]
    • Abbas was quick to dissolve the unity government by removing the Hamas led cabinet and Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.[45]
    • There have been two other failed peace agreements in Cairo and Doha.[46]
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) (rival)
    • PIJ and Hamas compete for control of resources and popular support in Gaza. However, the groups also occasionally work as allies and launch joint attacks against Israel.[47]

Counterterrorism Efforts

  • Domestic Political:
    • After Hamas gained complete control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel issued a blockade on the region to weaken Hamas.[48]
    • In 2005 Hamas agreed to a temporary cease-fire brokered by the Palestinian Authority.[49]
    • In 2008, Hamas and Israel came to a six-month agreement of peace leading to a significant reduction in rocket attacks towards Israel.[50]
    • A ceasefire was issued on January 18, 2009.[51]
  • Domestic Military:
    • In late December 2008 Hamas and Israel experienced a 23-day war.[52]
    • In 2012, another war was fought between Israel and Hamas starting November 14, and ending with a ceasefire on November 21.[53]

United States Government Designations

  • Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), October 8, 1997.[54]

Other Governments’ Designations

  • Canada (November 2002): Listed Terrorist Organization[55]
  • Australia (October 2003): Listed Terrorist Organization[56]
  • United Kingdom (March 2001): Listed Terrorist Organization[57]
 

[1] National Counterterrorism Center. 2014. “Hamas.” Terrorist Groups. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/hamas.html; Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[2] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.; Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html.

[3] National Counterterrorism Center. 2014. “Hamas.” Terrorist Groups. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/hamas.html; Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[4] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[5] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.Jonathen Masters, “Hamas,” Council on Foreign Relations, last updated November 27, 2012

http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968#p4

[6] Attorney-General, Australia. 2013. “Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.” Australian National Security. September 18. http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx.Australian National Security, “Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx

[7] Hauslohner, Abigail. 2010. “Gaza’s Police Force: Between Hamas and a Hard Place.” Time, September 17. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2019151,00.html.Abigail Hauslohner, “Gaza’s Police Force: Between Hamas and a Hard Place,” TIME, September 17, 2010 http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2019151,00.html

[8] Usher, Graham. 2005/2006. “The Democratic Resistance: Hamas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Elections.” Journal of Palestinian Studies.3. http://www.palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/41709.

[9] Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html.

[10] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm; US Department of the Treasury. 2008. “Treasury Designates the Union of Good.” Press Releases. November 12. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1267.aspx.

[11] US Department of the Treasury. 2008. “Treasury Designates the Union of Good.” Press Releases. November 12. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1267.aspx.

[12] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm; Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[13] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[14] Mishal, Shaul. 2003. “The Pragmatic Dimension of the Palestinian Hamas: A Network Perspective.” Armed Forces & Society 29 (4): 569–89. doi:10.1177/0095327X0302900406.

[15] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[16] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[17] Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html.

[18] Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html.

[19] Usher, Graham. 2005/2006. “The Democratic Resistance: Hamas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Elections.” Journal of Palestinian Studies.3. http://www.palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/41709

[20] Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html.

[21] Beaumont, Peter, and Paul Lewis. 2014. “After Seven-Year Rift, Hamas and Fatah Sign Unity Accord.” The Guardian, April 24, sec. International. via LexisNexis.

[22] Beaumont, Peter, and Paul Lewis. 2014. “After Seven-Year Rift, Hamas and Fatah Sign Unity Accord.” The Guardian, April 24, sec. International. via LexisNexis.

[23] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[24] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[25] US Department of the Treasury. 2008. “Treasury Designates the Union of Good.” Press Releases. November 12. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1267.aspx.

[26] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[27] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[28] Attorney-General, Australia. 2013. “Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.” Australian National Security. September 18. http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx; Hauslohner, Abigail. 2010. “Gaza’s Police Force: Between Hamas and a Hard Place.” Time, September 17. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2019151,00.html

[29] Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[30] Jones, Bryony. 2012. “Q&A: What Is Hamas?” Online News. CNN. November 24. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html; Hauslohner, Abigail. 2010. “Gaza’s Police Force: Between Hamas and a Hard Place.” Time, September 17. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2019151,00.html.

[31] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[32] Zuhur, Sherifa D. 2008. Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=894.

[33] Danin, Robert M. 2014. “The Fatah-Hamas Gaza Palestinian Unity Agreement.” Middle East Matters. April 23. http://blogs.cfr.org/danin/2014/04/23/the-fatah-hamas-gaza-palestinian-unity-agreement/.

[34] Danin, Robert M. 2014. “The Fatah-Hamas Gaza Palestinian Unity Agreement.” Middle East Matters. April 23. http://blogs.cfr.org/danin/2014/04/23/the-fatah-hamas-gaza-palestinian-unity-agreement/.

[35]“Only 16 Percent of Palestinians Support Abbas: Poll.” 2015. Al-Bawaba. September 3. http://www.albawaba.com/news/only-16-percent-palestinians-support-abbas-poll-738796.

[36] "US tells Arafat to rein in killers", The Australian, June 9, 2003; Stephen Sloan and Sean K. Anderson. Historical dictionary of terrorism. Scarecrow Press, 2009.

[37] Jim Zanotti, “Hamas: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 2, 2010, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41514.pdf

[38] John Bradley, "Hamas chief's killing may unify militants; It has brought rival groups closer together and hardened their resolve to wreak havoc in Israel," The Straits Times, March 26, 2004; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2013). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; Patrick Cockburn, "Leader of 'Achille Lauro' hijack turns to the ballot-box," The Independent (London), May 27, 1998.

[39] "3 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes," Daily Times, March 12, 2012; "Audacious raid that led to the abduction of young soldier,"  Sydney Morning Herald, October 13, 2011; "Palestinian group chief interviewed on formation of political wing," BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, September 5, 2007.

[40] National Counterterrorism Center. 2014. “Hamas.” Terrorist Groups. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/hamas.html; Laub, Zachary. 2014. “Hamas.” CFR Backgrounders. Council on Foreign Relations. August 1. http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968.

[41] Zuhur, Sherifa D. 2008. Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=894.

[42] Cordesman, Anthony H. “The ‘Gaza War’ A Strategic Analysis”, Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2 February 2009, http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/090202_gaza_war.pdf.

[43] Zanotti, Jim. 2010. Hamas: Background and Issues for Congress. CRS Report for Congress R41514. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41514.pdf.

[44] Zuhur, Sherifa D. 2008. Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=894.

[45] Zuhur, Sherifa D. 2008. Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=894.

[46] Danin, Robert M. 2014. “The Fatah-Hamas Gaza Palestinian Unity Agreement.” Middle East Matters. April 23. http://blogs.cfr.org/danin/2014/04/23/the-fatah-hamas-gaza-palestinian-unity-agreement/.

[47] Matthew Levitt, "Hamas and Islamic Jihad Clash over 'Media Jihad'" Jane's Homeland and Secuirty Monitor. February 2005; "Analysis: Who will come out on top?" The Guardian. January 3, 2009; Michael Binyon, "It's no coincidence that blast follows Iran's threat." The Times. April 18, 2006.

[48] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[49] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[50] National Counterterrorism Center. 2014. “Hamas.” Terrorist Groups. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/hamas.html.

[51] National Counterterrorism Center. 2014. “Hamas.” Terrorist Groups. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/hamas.html.

[52] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[53] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[54] US Department of State. 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/index.htm.

[55] Public Safety Canada. 2014. “Currently Listed Entities.” Listed Terrorist Entities. March 4. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx.

[56] Attorney-General, Australia. 2013. “Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.” Australian National Security. September 18. http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx.

[57] Attorney-General, Australia. 2013. “Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.” Australian National Security. September 18. http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx.