Hamas

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Hamas
حركة المقاومة الاسلامية
FounderSheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi & Mahmoud Zahar
Chief of the Political BureauKhaled Mashal[1][2]
Deputy Chief of the Political BureauMousa Abu Marzouq[1][2]
Prime MinisterIsmail Haniyah[1]
Foreign MinisterMahmoud Zahar[1]
Founded1987 (1987)
Preceded byPalestinian Muslim Brethren
HeadquartersGaza, Palestinian territories
IdeologySunni Islamism,[3]
Sharia law,
Islamic fundamentalism,[4] Palestinian nationalism
ReligionSunni Islam
International affiliationMuslim Brotherhood

Politics of Palestine
Political parties
Elections

 
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Hamas
حركة المقاومة الاسلامية
FounderSheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi & Mahmoud Zahar
Chief of the Political BureauKhaled Mashal[1][2]
Deputy Chief of the Political BureauMousa Abu Marzouq[1][2]
Prime MinisterIsmail Haniyah[1]
Foreign MinisterMahmoud Zahar[1]
Founded1987 (1987)
Preceded byPalestinian Muslim Brethren
HeadquartersGaza, Palestinian territories
IdeologySunni Islamism,[3]
Sharia law,
Islamic fundamentalism,[4] Palestinian nationalism
ReligionSunni Islam
International affiliationMuslim Brotherhood

Politics of Palestine
Political parties
Elections

Hamas (Arabic: حماسḤamās, "enthusiasm", an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, "Islamic Resistance Movement") is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist[5] organization, with an associated military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.[6]

Since June 2007 Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip, after it won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections[7] and then defeated the Fatah political organization in a series of violent clashes. Israel, the United States,[8] Canada,[9], the European Union,[10][11] and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization,[12][13] while Iran, Russia,[14] Turkey,[15] and Arab nations do not.

Based on the principles of Islamic fundamentalism gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded in 1987 (during the First Intifada) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.[16][17] Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin stated in 1987, and the Hamas Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.[18][19] However, in July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas's political bureau chief, said the organization was willing to cooperate with "a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders", provided that Palestinian refugees hold the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be the new nation's capital.[20][21]

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas affiliated military wing, has launched attacks on Israel, against both military and civilian targets. Attacks on civilian targets have included rocket attacks and, from 1993 to 2006, suicide bombings.[22] Military targets included Israeli outposts and border crossings and rival Palestinian militias in the occupied territories.[23][24]

In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections Hamas won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament,[7] defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. Following the elections, the United States and the EU halted financial assistance to the Hamas-led administration.[25] In March 2007 a national unity government, headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas was briefly formed, but this failed to restart international financial assistance.[26] Tensions over control of Palestinian security forces soon erupted into the 2007 Battle of Gaza,[26] after which Hamas retained control of Gaza while its officials were ousted from government positions in the West Bank.[26] Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah forces were no longer providing security there.[27]

In June 2008, as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Hamas ceased rocket attacks on Israel and made some efforts to prevent attacks by other organizations.[28][29] After a four-month calm, the conflict escalated when Israel carried out a military action with the stated aim of preventing an abduction planned by Hamas, using a tunnel that had been dug under the border security fence,[29] and killed seven Hamas operatives. In retaliation, Hamas attacked Israel with a barrage of rockets.[29][30] In late December 2008, Israel attacked Gaza,[31] withdrawing its forces from the territory in mid-January 2009.[32] After the Gaza War, Hamas continued to govern the Gaza Strip and Israel maintained its economic blockade. On May 4, 2011, Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation agreement that provides for "creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government" prior to national elections scheduled for 2012.[33] According to Israeli news reports quoting Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, as a condition of joining the PLO, Khaled Meshaal agreed to discontinue the "armed struggle" against Israel and accept Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders, alongside Israel.[34]

Contents

Etymology

Hamas is an acronym of the Arabic phrase حركة المقاومة الاسلامية or Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement". The Arabic word Hamas also means devotion and zeal in the path of Allah.[35] The Hamas covenant interprets its name to mean "strength and bravery".[36]

Leadership and structure

Map of key Hamas leadership nodes. 2010
Current leader, Khaled Meshaal

Hamas comprises three interrelated wings – the social welfare and political wings, which are responsible for the social, administrative, political, and propaganda activities of Hamas, and the military wing, which is engaged in covert activities, such as acting against suspected collaborators, gathering intelligence on potential targets, procuring weapons, and carrying out military attacks.[37]

Consultative councils

The Majlis al-Shura (consultative council) is the group's overarching political and decision making body. It includes representatives from Gaza, the West Bank, Israeli prisons, and the exiled external leadership, the Political Bureau. Under this Shura council are committees responsible for supervising Hamas activities, from media relations to military operations. In the West Bank and Gaza, local Shura committees answer to the Shura council and carry out its decisions.[37]

Hamas's highest decision-making body is its Political Bureau, which consists of 15 members. Before the beginning of the Syrian civil war, it operated in exile in Damascus, Syria. The bureau is elected by members who select their representatives in local Consultative Councils in specific geographic regions. The councils then nominate representatives to the General Consultative Council, and the Political Bureau is elected by members of the General Consultative Council.[2]

Military wing

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing formed in 1992, is named in commemoration of influential Palestinian nationalist Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Armed Hamas cells sometimes refer to themselves as "Students of Ayyash", "Students of the Engineer", or "Yahya Ayyash Units",[38] to commemorate Yahya Ayyash, an early Hamas bomb-maker killed in 1996.[7] Since its establishment, the military capability of Hamas has increased markedly, from rifles to Qassam rockets and more.[39]

While the number of members is known only to the Brigades leadership, Israel estimates the Brigades have a core of several hundred members who receive military style training, including training in Iran and in Syria (before the Syrian civil war).[40] Additionally, the brigades have an estimated 10,000 operatives "of varying degrees of skill and professionalism" who are members of Hamas or their supporters and the internal security forces. These operatives can be expected to reinforce the Brigades in an "emergency situation".[41]

Although the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas, they also operate independently of Hamas, and at times contrary to Hamas' stated aims.[42] Most analysts agree that although differences of opinion between the Hamas military and political wing exist, Hamas's internal discipline is strong enough to contain them.[43] Political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill liken Hamas's relationship with the Brigades to the Northern Ireland political party Sinn Féin's relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army.[44] To further explain the relationship, they quote a senior Hamas official: "The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders from [Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance."[44] However, according to former U.S. Department of Treasury official and terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, the Hamas Political Bureau operates as the highest ranking leadership body determining the policy of the Hamas organization and has responsibility for directing and coordinating terrorist acts. Hamas' founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, stated in 1998: "We can not separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body." [45][46]

Social welfare

Hamas is particularly popular among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, though it also has a following in the West Bank, and to a lesser extent in other Middle Eastern countries. Its popularity stems in part from its welfare wing providing social services to Palestinians in the occupied territories. Such services are not generally provided by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli scholar Reuven Paz estimates that 90% of Hamas activities revolve around "social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities." Social services include running relief programs and funding schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues.[47]

In particular, Hamas funded health services where people could receive free or inexpensive medical treatment. Hamas greatly contributed to the health sector, and facilitated hospital and physician services in the Palestinian territory. On the other hand, Hamas's use of hospitals is sometimes criticised as purportedly serving the promotion of violence against Israel.[48] Charities affiliated with Hamas are known to financially support families of those who have been killed or imprisoned while carrying out militant actions or supporting such actions. Families typically receive a one time grant of $500 to $5,000, and those whose homes have been destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces have their rent paid for temporary housing. Families of militants not affiliated with Hamas sometimes receive less.[49]

Hamas has funded education and built Islamic charities, libraries, mosques and education centers for women. They also built nurseries, kindergartens and supervised religious schools that provide free meals to children. When children attend their schools and mosques, parents are required to sign oaths of allegiance. Refugees, as well as those left without homes, are able to claim financial and technical assistance from Hamas.[50]

The work of Hamas in these fields supplements that provided by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). Hamas is also well regarded by Palestinians for its efficiency and perceived lack of corruption compared to Fatah.[51] Since the 2008–2009 Israeli military operation in Gaza, Palestinian public opinion polls have shown Hamas steadily increasing in popularity with 52% support compared to 13% for Fatah. All public opinion surveys conducted recently have supported this trend.[52]

Despite building materials needing to be smuggled into the territory, luxury beach resorts and tourist facilities operated by the interior ministry have been constructed by Hamas government linked charities which include gardens, playgrounds, football fields, a zoo and restaurants aimed to provide employment and low cost entertainment for citizens. Some Palestinians have complained about the admission fee, criticizing Hamas for charging them to use "government-owned" property.[53]

Goals

A flag, with the Shahadah, frequently used by Hamas supporters.
Proportions: 9:16[citation needed]

Hamas's 1988 charter calls for the replacement of Israel and the Palestinian Territories with an Islamic Palestinian state. After the elections in 2006, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar did not rule out the possibility of accepting a "temporary two-state solution", and stated that he dreamed "of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it."[54] Xinhua reports that Al-Zahar "did not rule out the possibility of having Jews, Muslims and Christians living under the sovereignty of an Islamic state."[54] In late 2006, Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, said that if a Palestinian state was formed within the 1967 lines, Hamas was willing to declare a truce that could last as long as 20 years, and stated that Hamas will never recognize the "usurper Zionist government" and will continue "jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem".[55]

In March 2006, Hamas released its official legislative program. The document clearly signaled that Hamas could refer the issue of recognizing Israel to a national referendum. Under the heading "Recognition of Israel," it stated simply (AFP, 3/11/06): "The question of recognizing Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people." This was a major shift away from their 1988 charter.[56] A few months later, via Maryland's Jerome Segal, the group sent a letter to US President George Bush stating they "don't mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders", and asked for direct negotiations: "Segal emphasized that a state within the 1967 borders and a truce for many years could be considered Hamas' de facto recognition of Israel."[57]

In an April 2008 meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and former US President Jimmy Carter, an understanding was reached in which Hamas agreed it would respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, provided this were ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum. Hamas later publicly offered a long-term truce with Israel if Israel agreed to return to its 1967 borders and grant the "right of return" to all Palestinian refugees.[58] In November 2008, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh re-stated that Hamas was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and offered Israel a long-term truce "if Israel recognized the Palestinians' national rights."[59] In 2009, in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haniyeh repeated his group's support for a two-state settlement based on 1967 borders: "We would never thwart efforts to create an independent Palestinian state with borders [from] June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital."[60] On 1 December 2010, Ismail Haniyeh again repeated that, "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees", and that "Hamas will respect the results [of a referendum] regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles".[61]

In February 2012, according to the Palestinian authority, Hamas forswore the use of violence. Evidence for this was provided by an eruption of violence from Islamic Jihad in March 2012 after an Israeli assassination of a Jihad leader, during which Hamas refrained from attacking Israel.[62] "Israel—despite its mantra that because Hamas is sovereign in Gaza it is responsible for what goes on there—almost seems to understand," wrote Israeli journalists Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, "and has not bombed Hamas offices or installations."[63]

Israel has rejected some truce offers by Hamas because it contends the group uses them to prepare for more fighting rather than peace.[64] The Atlantic magazine columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, along with other analysts, believes Hamas may be incapable of permanent reconciliation with Israel.[65][66] Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University, writes that Hamas talks "of hudna [temporary ceasefire], not of peace or reconciliation with Israel. They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine."[67] Such negative analysis ignores, however, the precedent that when Hamas' parent organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, came to power in neighbouring Egypt, they upheld their country's peace treaty with Israel.[68][69] Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu declared he had no problem dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood so long as the peace treaty was respected.[70]

Charter

The Hamas Charter (or Covenant), issued in 1988, outlined the organization's position on many issues at the time, identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who "fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors." The charter states "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories,[36] and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel.[71][72] The Charter also asserts that through shrewd manipulation of imperial countries and secret societies, Zionists were behind a wide range of events and disasters going as far back in history as the French Revolution. Among the charter's controversial statements is the following: "The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews [and kill them]; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!"[35] The document also quotes Islamic religious texts to provide justification for fighting against and killing the Jews of Israel,[73] presenting the Arab-Israeli conflict as an inherently irreconcilable struggle between Jews and Muslims, and Judaism and Islam,[35] adding that the only way to engage in this struggle between "truth and falsehood" is through Islam and by means of jihad, until victory or martyrdom.[35] The Charter adds that "renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion" of Islam.[74] The charter states that Hamas is humanistic, and tolerant of other religions as long as they do not block Hamas's efforts.[75]

Current status of the Charter

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal indicated to Robert Pastor, senior adviser to the Carter Center, that the Charter is "a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons."[76] Hamas do not use the Charter on their website and prefer to use their election manifesto to put forth their agenda.[77][78] Pastor states that those who quote the charter rather than more recent Hamas statements may be using the Charter as an excuse to ignore Hamas.[76]

British diplomat and former British ambassador to the United Nations Sir Jeremy Greenstock stated in early 2009 that the Hamas charter was "drawn up by a Hamas-linked imam some [twenty] years ago and has never been adopted since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in 2006".[79] Mohammed Nimer of American University comments on the Charter, "It's a tract meant to mobilize support and it should be amended... It projects anger, not vision."[80] Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, has questioned the use of the charter by Israel and its supporters to brand Hamas as a fundamentalist, terrorist, racist, anti-Semitic organization and claims that they have taken parts of the charter out of context for propaganda purposes. He claims that they dwell on the charter and ignore that Hamas has changed its views with time.[81]

History

Early Islamic activism in Gaza

With its takeover of Gaza after the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel hunted down secular Palestinian Liberation Organization factions but dropped the previous Egyptian rulers' harsh restrictions against Islamic activists.[16] In fact, Israel for many years tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO and its dominant faction, Fatah.[16][82]

Among the activists benefited was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, who had also formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya in 1973, a charity recognized by Israel in 1979. Israel allowed the organization to build mosques, clubs, schools, and a library in Gaza.[16][83]

Yitzhak Segev, the acting governor of Gaza in 1979, said he had no illusions about Yassin's intentions, having watched an Islamist movement topple the Shah as Israel's military attache in Iran. According to Segev, Yassin and his charity were completely peaceful towards Israel during this time, and Segev and other Israeli officials feared being viewed as an enemy of Islam. Segev maintained regular contact with Yassin, met with him around a dozen times, and arranged for Yassin to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment.[16]

Also, Segev said, Fatah was "our main enemy." [16][84] Islamists frequently attacked secular and leftist Palestinian movements, including Fatah, but the Israeli military avoided getting involved in those quarrels.[16] It stood aside, for example, when Mujama al-Islamiya activists stormed the Red Crescent charity's headquarters in Gaza, but Segev did send soldiers to prevent the burning down of the home of the head of the organization.[16]

In 1984 the Israeli army received intelligence that Sheikh Yassin's followers were collecting arms in Gaza. Israeli troops raided mosques and found a cache of weapons.[16] Yassin was arrested, but told his interrogators the weapons were meant to be used against secular Palestinians, not Israel. The cleric was released a year later and allowed to continue to develop his movement in Gaza.[16]

Around the time of Yassin's arrest, Avner Cohen, an Israeli religious affairs official, sent a report to senior military officers and civilian leadership in Gaza advising them of the dangers of the Islamic movement, but this report and similar ones were ignored.[16] Former military intelligence officer Shalom Harari said the warnings were ignored out of neglect, not a desire to fortify the Islamists: "Israel never financed Hamas. Israel never armed Hamas."[16][85]

Establishment

In 1987, several Palestinians were killed in a traffic accident involving an Israeli driver, and the events that followed – a Palestinian uprising (now known as the First Intifada) against Israel's West Bank and Gaza occupation – led Yassin and six other Palestinians to found Hamas as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The new group was supported by Brotherhood-affiliated charities and social institutions that had already gained a strong foothold in the occupied territories. The acronym "Hamas" first appeared in 1987 in a leaflet that accused the Israeli intelligence services of undermining the moral fiber of Palestinian youth as part of Mossad's recruitment of what Hamas termed collaborators. Nonetheless, Israeli military and intelligence was still focused on Fatah, and continued to maintain contacts with Gaza's Islamic activists. Numerous Islamist leaders, including senior Hamas founder Mahmoud Zahar, met with Yitzhak Rabin as part of "regular consultations" between Israeli officials and Palestinians not linked to the PLO.[16]

Hamas carried out its first attack against Israel in 1989, abducting and killing two soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces immediately arrested Yassin and sentenced him to life in prison, and deported 400 Hamas activists, including Zahar, to South Lebanon, which at the time was occupied by Israel. During this time Hamas built a relationship with Hezbollah.

1990s

Hamas's military branch, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was created in 1991.[86] During the 1990s the al-Qassam Brigades conducted numerous attacks on Israel, with both civilian and military victims. In April 1993, suicide bombings in the West Bank began.[87] After the February 1994 massacre by Baruch Goldstein of 30 Muslim civilians in a Hebron mosque, the al-Qassam Brigades began suicide attacks inside Israel.[88]

In December 1992 Israel responded to the killing of a border police officer by deporting 415 leading figures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Lebanon, which provoked international condemnation and a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the action.[89][90]

Although the suicide attacks by the al-Qassam Brigades and other groups violated the 1993 Oslo accords (which Hamas opposed[91]), Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat was reluctant to pursue the attackers and may have had inadequate means to do so.[92] Some analysts state that the Palestinian Authority could have stopped the suicide and other attacks on civilians but refused to do so.[93]

According to the Congressional Research Service, Hamas admitted to having executed Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli authorities in the 1990s. A transcript of a training film by the al-Qassam Brigades tells how Hamas operatives kidnapped Palestinians accused of collaboration and then forced confessions before executing them.[17]

In 1996, Yahya Ayash, the chief bombmaker of Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was assassinated by the Israeli secret service.[92][94]

In September 1997, Israeli agents in Jordan attempted but failed to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, leading to chilled relations between the two countries and release of Sheikh Yassin, Hamas's spiritual leader, from Israeli prison. Two years later Hamas was banned in Jordan, reportedly in part at the request of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.[95] Jordan's King Abdullah feared the activities of Hamas and its Jordanian allies would jeopardize peace negotiations with Israel, and accused Hamas of engaging in illegitimate activities within Jordan.[96][97] In mid-September 1999, authorities arrested Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ibrahim Ghosheh on their return from a visit to Iran, and charged them with being members of an illegal organization, storing weapons, conducting military exercises, and using Jordan as a training base.[96][97][98] Hamas leaders denied the charges.[95] Mashal was exiled and eventually settled in Syria.

Second Intifada

August 2001 Sbarro pizza restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israeli civilians were killed. Hamas said the attack was in response to Israel's assassination of its officials, including two senior leaders.[99]

Al-Qassam Brigades militants were among the armed groups that launched both military-style attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets during the Second Intifada (also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الأقصى‎, Intifāat El Aqa; Hebrew: אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה‎, Intifādat El-Aqtzah), which began in late September 2000. This Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories was much more violent than the First Intifada. The military and civilian death toll is estimated at 5500 Palestinians and more than 1100 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners.[100] A 2007 study of Palestinian suicide bombings during the second intifada (September 2000 through August 2005) found that about 40 percent were carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades.[101]

The immediate trigger for the uprising is disputed, but a more general cause, writes U.S. political science professor Jeremy Pressman, was "popular Palestinian discontent [that] grew during the Oslo peace process because the reality on the ground did not match the expectations created by the peace agreements."[102] Hamas would be the beneficiary of this growing discontent in the 2006 Palestinian Authority legislative elections.

In January 2004, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said that the group would end armed resistance against Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, and that restoring Palestinians' "historical rights" (relating to the 1948 Palestinian exodus) "would be left for future generations."[103] On January 25, 2004, senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi offered a 10-year truce, or hudna, in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the complete withdrawal by Israel from the territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War.[103] Al-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."[103][104] Israel immediately dismissed al-Rantissi's statements as insincere and a smokescreen for military preparations.[104] Yassin was assassinated on March 22, 2004, by a targeted Israeli air strike,[105] and al-Rantisi was assassinated by a similar air strike on April 18, 2004.[106]

2006 presidential and legislative elections

While Hamas boycotted the 2005 Palestinian presidential election, it did participate in the 2005 municipal elections organized by Yasser Arafat in the occupied territories. In those elections it won control of over one third of Palestinian municipal councils, besting Fatah, which had for long been the biggest force in Palestinian politics.[107]

In its election manifesto for the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas omitted a call for an end to Israel, though it did still call for armed struggle against the occupation.[108][109] Hamas won the 2006 elections, winning 76 of the 132 seats to Fatah's 43.[110] Seen by many as primarily a rejection of the Fatah government's corruption and ineffectiveness, the Hamas victory seemingly had brought to an end 40 years of PLO domination of Palestinian politics.[110][111]

In early February 2006, Hamas offered Israel a 10-year truce "in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,"[7] and recognition of Palestinian rights including the "right of return."[112] Mashal added that Hamas was not calling for a final end to armed operations against Israel, and it would not impede other Palestinian groups from carrying out such operations.[113]

After the election, the Quartet on the Middle East (the United States, Russia, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations) stated that assistance to the Palestinian Authority would only continue if Hamas renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, which Hamas refused to do.[114] The Quartet then imposed a freeze on all international aid to the Palestinian territories.[115]

In 2006 after the Gaza election, Hamas leader sent a letter addressed to George W. Bush where he among other things declared that Hamas would accept a state on the 1967 borders including a truce. However, the Bush administration did not reply.[116]

Electoral Platform for Change and Reform

The Change and Reform List adopts a set of principles stemming from the Islamic tradition that we embrace. We see these principles as agreed upon not only by our Palestinian people, but also by our Arab and Islamic nation as a whole. These principles are:

1. True Islam with its civilized achievements and political, economic, social, and legal aspects is our frame of reference and our way of life. 2. Historic Palestine is part of the Arab and Islamic land and its ownership by the Palestinian people is a right that does not diminish over time. No military or legal measures will change that right. 3. The Palestinian people, wherever they reside, constitute a single and united people and form an integral part of the Arab and Muslim nation . . . [Quranic verse]. Our Palestinian people are still living a phase of national liberation, and thus they have the right to strive to recover their own rights and end the occupation using all means, including armed struggle. We have to make all our resources available to support our people and defeat the occupation and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. 4. The right of return of all Palestinian refugees and displaced persons to their land and properties, and the right to self-determination and all other national rights, are inalienable and cannot be bargained away for any political concessions. 5. We uphold the indigenous and inalienable rights of our people to our land, Jerusalem, our holy places, our water resources, borders, and a fully sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. 6. Reinforcing and protecting Palestinian national unity is one of the priorities of the Palestinian national action. 7. The issue of the prisoners is at the top of the Palestinian agenda.[117]

Legislative policy and reforming the judiciary.

"stress the separation between the three powers, the legislative, executive and judicial; activate the role of the Constitutional Court; re-form the Judicial Supreme Council and choose its members by elections and on the basis of qualifications rather than partisan, personal, and social considerations . . . ; enact the necessary laws that guarantee the neutrality of general prosecutor . . . [and] laws that will stop any transgression by the executive power on the constitution".[117]

Public freedoms and citizen rights.

"Achieve equality before the law among citizens in rights and duties; bring security to all citizens and protect their properties and assure their safety against arbitrary arrest, torture, or revenge; stress the culture of dialogue . . . ; support the press and media institutions and maintain the right of journalists to access and to publish information; maintain freedom and independence of professional syndicates and preserve the rights of their membership".[117]

Hamas–Fatah conflict

Hamas rally in Bethlehem

After the formation of the Hamas-led cabinet on March 20, 2006, tensions between Fatah and Hamas militants progressively rose in the Gaza strip as Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of demonstrations, assassinations and abductions against Hamas which led to Hamas responding.[118] Israeli intelligence warned Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas had planned to kill him at his office in Gaza. According to a Palestinian source close to Abbas, Hamas considers president Abbas to be a barrier to its complete control over the Palestinian Authority and decided to kill him. In a statement to Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Mohammed Nazzal, accused Abbas of being party to besieging and isolating the Hamas-led government.[119]

On June 9, 2006, during an Israeli artillery operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.[120][121] It was assumed that Israeli shellings were responsible for the killings, but Israeli government officials denied this.[122][123] Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, taking responsibility for the subsequent Qassam rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel.[124]

On June 25, two Israeli soldiers were killed and another, Gilad Shalit, abducted following an incursion by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Popular Resistance Committees and Army of Islam. In response, the Israeli military launched Operation Summer Rains three days later, to secure the release of the kidnapped soldier,[125][126][127] arresting 64 Hamas officials. Among them were 8 Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers and up to 20 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,[127] The arrests, along with other events, effectively prevented the Hamas-dominated legislature from functioning during most of its term.[128][129]

On February 2007 Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca produced agreement on a signed by Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of Fatah and Khaled Mashal on behalf of Hamas. The new government was called on to achieve Palestinian national goals as approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law and the National Reconciliation Document (the "Prisoners' Document") as well as the decisions of the Arab summit.[130]

In March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council established a national unity government, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against. Government ministers were sworn in by Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman on the Palestinian Authority, in at a ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah. In June that year, renewed fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah.[131] In the course of the June 2007 Battle of Gaza, Hamas exploited the near total collapse of Palestinian Authority forces in Gaza, to retain [132] control of Gaza, ousting Fatah officials. President Mahmoud Abbas then dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government.[133] and outlawed the Hamas militia.[134] At least 600 Palestinians died in fighting between Hamas and Fatah.[135] Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based group, accused both sides in the conflict of torture and war crimes.[136]

Human Rights Watch estimates several hundred Gazans were "maimed" and tortured in the aftermath of the Gaza War. 73 Gazan men accused of "collaborating" had their arms and legs broken by "unidentified perpetrators" and 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, who had escaped from Gaza's main prison compound after Israel bombed the facility, were executed by Hamas security officials in the first days of the conflict.[137][138]

Hamas security forces reportedly shot and tortured Palestinians who opposed Hamas rule in Gaza and openly supported Israel's attack. One victim, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds in the leg, told Human Rights Watch he was "so happy they bombed that I was giving out sweets."[137]

In another case, a Palestinian had criticized Hamas in a conversation on the street with some friends. Later that day, more than a dozen armed men with black masks and red kaffiyeh took the man from his home, and brought him to a solitary area where they shot him three times in the lower legs and ankles. The man told Human Rights Watch that he was not politically active.[137]

Hamas security forces attacked hundreds Fatah officials who supported Israel. Human Rights Watch interviewed one such person:

"There were eight of us sitting there. We were all from Fatah. Then three masked militants broke in. They were dressed in brown camouflage military uniforms; they all had guns. They pointed their guns at us and cursed us, then they began beating us with iron rods, including a 10-year-old boy whom they hit in the face. They said we were "collaborators" and "unfaithful." They beat me with iron sticks and gun butts for 15 minutes. They were yelling: "You are happy that Israel is bombing us!" until people came out of their houses, and they withdrew.[137]

In March 2012 Mahmoud Abbas stated that there were no political differences between Hamas and Fatah as they had reached agreement on a joint political platform and on a truce with Israel. Commenting on relations with Hamas, Abbas revealed in an interview with Al Jazeera that "We agreed that the period of calm would be not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank," adding that "We also agreed on a peaceful popular resistance [against Israel], the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and that the peace talks would continue if Israel halted settlement construction and accepted our conditions."[139][140]

Gaza War

On June 17, 2008, Egyptian mediators announced that an informal truce had been agreed to between Hamas and Israel.[141][142] Hamas agreed to cease rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel agreed to allow limited commercial shipping across its border with Gaza, barring any breakdown of the tentative peace deal; Hamas also hinted that it would discuss the release of Gilad Shalit.[143] Israeli sources state that Hamas also committed itself to enforce the ceasefire on the other Palestinian organizations.[29] Even before the truce was agreed to, some on the Israeli side were not optimistic about it, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin stating in May 2008 that a ground incursion into Gaza was unavoidable and would more effectively quell arms smuggling and pressure Hamas into relinquishing power.[144]

Damage to a Beersheba kindergarten from a Grad rocket fired from Gaza

While Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire, the lull was sporadically violated by other groups, sometimes in defiance of Hamas.[29][145][146] For example, on June 24 Islamic Jihad launched rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot; Israel called the attack a grave violation of the informal truce, and closed its border crossings with Gaza.[147] On November 4, 2008 Israeli forces, in an attempt to stop construction of a tunnel, killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid inside the Gaza Strip.[148][149] Hamas responded by resuming rocket attacks, a total of 190 rockets in November according to Israel's military.[150]

With the six-month truce officially expired on December 19, Hamas launched 50 to more than 70 rockets and mortars into Israel over the next three days, though no Israelis were injured.[151][152] On December 21, Hamas said it was ready to stop the attacks and renew the truce if Israel stopped its "aggression" in Gaza and opened up its border crossings.[152][153]

On December 27 and 28, Israel implemented Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said "We warned Hamas repeatedly that rejecting the truce would push Israel to aggression against Gaza." According to Palestinian officials, over 280 people were killed and 600 were injured in the first two days of airstrikes.[154] Most were Hamas police and security officers, though many civilians also died.[154] According to Israel, militant training camps, rocket-manufacturing facilities and weapons warehouses that had been pre-identified were hit, and later they attacked rocket and mortar squads who fired around 180 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities.[155] Chief of Gaza police force Tawfiq Jabber, head of the General Security Service Salah Abu Shrakh,[156] senior religious authority and security officer Nizar Rayyan,[157] and Interior Minister Said Seyam[158] were among those killed during the fighting. Although Israel sent out thousands of cell-phone messages urging residents of Gaza to leave houses where weapons may be stored, in an attempt to minimise civilian casualties,[155] some residents complained there was nowhere to go because many neighborhoods had received the same message.[155][159][160] Israeli bombs landed close to civilian structures such as schools,[161][162] and some alleged that Israel was deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians.[163]

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 17, 2009.[164] Hamas responded the following day by announcing a one week ceasefire to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.[165] Israeli, Palestinian, and third-party sources disagreed on the total casualty figures from the Gaza war, and the number of Palestinian casualties who were civilians.[166][167] In November 2010, a senior Hamas official acknowledged that up to 300 fighters were killed and "In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and another 150 security forces were martyred." These new numbers reconcile the total with those of the Israeli military, which originally said were 709 "terror operatives" killed.[168][169]

After the Gaza War

On August 16, 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal stated that the organization is ready to open dialogue with the Obama administration because its policies are much better than those of former US president George W. Bush: "As long as there's a new language, we welcome it, but we want to see not only a change of language, but also a change of policies on the ground. We have said that we are prepared to cooperate with the US or any other international party that would enable the Palestinians to get rid of occupation."[170] Despite this, an August 30, 2009 speech during a visit to Jordan[171] in which Mashal expressed support for the Palestinian right of return was interpreted by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a sign that "Hamas has now clearly opted out of diplomacy."[172] In an interview on May 2010, Mashal said that if a Palestinian state with real sovereignty was established under the conditions he set out, on the borders of 1967 with its capital Jerusalem and with the right of return, that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance, and then the nature of any subsequent ties with Israel would be decided democratically by the Palestinians.[173][174]

In July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas's political bureau chief, stated Hamas's willingness to cooperate with a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, provided that Palestinian refugees be given the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be recognized as the new state's capital.[175]

In 2011, after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Hamas distanced itself from the Syrian regime and its members began leaving Syria. Where once there were "hundreds of exiled Palestinian officials and their relatives", that number shrunk to "a few dozen."[176] In September 2012, Hamas chief Khaled Meshal publicly announced his support for the Syrian opposition. He said "There is no contradiction in our adoption of democracy and reform, and our support of the resistance". This prompted Syrian state TV to issue a "withering attack" on him.[177] Meshal said that Hamas had been "forced out" of Damascus because of its disagreements with the Syrian regime.[178] In late October, Syrian Army soldiers shot dead two Hamas leaders in Daraa refugee camp.[179] On 5 November 2012, the Syrian state security forces shut down all Hamas offices in the country.[180] In January 2013, another two Hamas members were found dead in Syria's Husseinieh camp. Activists said that the two had been arrested and executed by state security forces.[181]

Funding

As of 2009 the Council on Foreign Relations estimates Hamas's annual budget at $70 million.[182]

In the early 2000s the largest backer of Hamas was Saudi Arabia, with over 50% of its funds coming from that country,[183] mainly through Islamic charity organizations.[184] An earlier estimate by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated a $50 million annual budget, mostly supplied by private charitable associations but with $12 million supplied directly by Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, and a further $3 million from Iran. In 2002, a Saudi Arabian charity, the Saudi Council to Support the Palestinian Intefada run by then Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz stated the council will give the families of 102 Hamas militants killed, including eight suicide bombers, $5,340 each.[185][186]

Saudi owned al-Taqwa Bank has been identified of holding money for Hamas as early as 1997. Jamie C. Zarate, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department, told Congress that 60 million was moved to Hamas accounts with Al Taqwa bank. The Al Taqwa bank has also been used to launder funds for Al Qaeda.[187][188][189] The funding by Saudi Arabia continued despite Saudi pledges to stop funding groups such as Hamas that have used violence,[190] and its recent denouncements of Hamas' lack of unity with Fatah.[191] According to the US State Department, Hamas is funded by Iran, Palestinian expatriates, and "private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states."[8] Saudi spokesman Adel Al Jubeir said that "no Saudi government money goes to Hamas, directly or indirectly." He added that it "very likely" that "some Saudi individuals" have provided financial support to Hamas.[192]

In 2004, reports citing unidentified U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials indicated that Saudi funding for Hamas had been curtailed and replaced by other regional sponsors. In June 2004 testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, former Treasury Department General Counsel David Aufhauser quoted "informed intelligence sources" as saying that "for whatever reason, the money going to Hamas from Saudi Arabia has substantially dried up."[192] Aufhauser indicated that Saudi financial support "has been supplemented by money from Iran and Syria flowing through even more dangerous rejectionist groups in the West Bank."[192] Similarly, Israeli daily Maariv quoted in 2004 an unidentified Israeli military official as saying that "for the first time in years the Saudis have begun to reduce the flow of funds to Hamas and to the Gaza Strip."[192] This source attributes this change largely to U.S. pressure on Saudi Arabia to stem the flow of funding to Hamas and terrorist organizations.[192] According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), another reported funding source for Hamas is through the 21,000 Arabs of Palestinian and Lebanese descent who live in the Foz do Iguaçu area of the tri-border region of Latin America. According to Paraguayan Interior Minister Julio César Fanego, they have donated "something between $50 and $500 million" to 16 Arab extremist groups between 1999 and 2001, in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000.[193][194]

In the late 1980s, 10% of all Hamas funding came Islamic Republic of Iran.[195] Later, from 1993 to 2006, Iran provided Hamas with approximately $30 US million annually. More recent assessments indicate that Iranian funding has increased significantly between 2006–2009, to hundreds of millions of Euros per year. After 2009, sanctions on Iran made funding difficult, forcing Hamas instead to rely on religious donations by individuals in the West Bank, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.[196][197] Since June 2011 funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran has been cut to show "displeasure at Hamas's failure to hold public rallies in support of President Assad" during the Syrian civil war, and funding from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been cut so the MB can diverts funds "to support Arab Spring revolts".[198] The shortages have meant that Gaza's 40,000 civil service and security employees were not paid July 2011.[198]

Hamas linked charities in 2010 invested heavily in Gaza business ventures, with the condition that much of revenue stream from those ventures go to Hamas-linked charitable purposes in Gaza.[199] Generally, Hamas and its members have increasingly dominated the Gaza economy, in particular since the 2006 Israel-led blockade of Gaza and Gaza elections.[200][201]

Gaza domestic funding

Hamas approved a 540 million dollar government budget for 2010 with up to 90% coming from "undisclosed" foreign aid which includes funding from Iran and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood according to western intelligence agencies.[198] Due to the Gaza blockade, Hamas still faces a financial crisis. With a bureaucracy of around 30,000 staff, the organisation is growing faster than can be handled with salaries being delayed or prioritised for the lowest paid. To fund it's budget, Hamas has raised new taxes on businesses and imposed a 14.5% tax on luxury goods smuggled through the tunnels. Gaza businessmen have accused Hamas of profiting from the blockade and using these taxes to buy large tracts of land and private buildings for public facilities in competition to established businesses.[198][202][203]

In August 2011, the U.S State Department threatened to cut a 100 million dollars in aid it sends to the Gaza Strip if Hamas continues to insist upon auditing American foreign aid organizations after Hamas suspended operations of the International Medical Corps following the group's refusal to submit to an onsite audit. Most foreign charities submit their own audits to the Interior Ministry in Ramallah. Charities must be audited by law, possibly to ensure money is not diverted for political or intelligence-gathering purposes but as the U.S. government forbids direct contact with Hamas the action prompted Washington to issue the threat via a third party. Aid provided by American and other foreign groups goes to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, where most of the 1.6 million residents are refugees[204][205]

A US official based in the region said "USAID-funded partner organizations operating in Gaza are forced by Hamas's actions to suspend their assistance work. (They) were put on hold effective August 12."[206] According to the official, Hamas demanded access to files and records of NGOs, which would reveal financial and administrative information, details of staff members and information on beneficiaries. He said Hamas shut down IMC and USAID after the US objected to "unwarranted audits". Hamas administration official Taher al-Nono said Hamas had a right to monitor their work in the territory but an understanding had been reached that would allow independent auditing teams to inspect the files of NGOs.[207]

A day after the US announced it was suspending financial aid to Gaza, Hamas officials said they had reached an agreement with the United States that would allow USAID to continue operations.[208]

In August 2011, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip imposed new travel restrictions on Palestinians active in non-governmental organizations by requiring them to provide details of the trip to the ministry in what the Palestinian NGO Network regards as another Hamas attempt to control and hamper them. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the new laws. Tharut al Bic, head of the interior ministry's NGO department, stated that "the new instructions are intended to make it easier for travellers to better organize their trip and to preserve order". Hamas requires sick people wishing to leave the Gaza Strip to submit applications and meet various conditions, in addition to restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians leaving Gaza.[209]

Media

In 2005, Hamas announced its intention to launch an experimental TV channel, "Al-Aqsa TV". The station was launched on January 7, 2006, less than three weeks before the Palestinian legislative elections. It has shown television programs, including some children's television, which deliver anti-semitic messages.[210] Hamas has stated that the television station is "an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement," and that Hamas does not hold anti-semitic views.[211]

Islamization efforts

In the Gaza Strip

From 1987 to 1991, during the first intifada, Hamas campaigned for the wearing of the hijab alongside other measures, including insisting women stay at home be segregated from men, and the promotion of polygamy. In the course of this campaign women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed, with the result that the hijab was being worn 'just to avoid problems on the streets'.[212]

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, some of its members have attempted to impose Islamic dress or the Hijab head covering on women.[67][213] Also, the government's "Islamic Endowment Ministry" has deployed Virtue Committee members to warn citizens of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing and dating.[214] However, there are no government laws imposing dress and other moral standards, and the Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students.[67] There has also been successful resistance to attempts by local Hamas officials to impose Islamic dress on women.[215]

Hamas officials deny having any plans to impose Islamic law, one legislator stating that "What you are seeing are incidents, not policy," and that Islamic law is the desired standard "but we believe in persuasion."[214] The Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students.[67] In March 2010, the BBC interviewed five "middle-class" women in Gaza City in March 2010, and all indicated there had been little or no change toward more conservative dress and mores.[216]

In the West Bank

In 2005, the human rights organization Freemuse released a report titled "Palestine: Taliban-like attempts to censor music", which said that Palestinian musicians feared that harsh religious laws against music and concerts will be imposed since Hamas group scored political gains in the Palestinian Authority local elections of 2005.[217]

The attempt by Hamas to dictate a cultural code of conduct in the 1980s and early 1990s led to a violent fighting between different Palestinan sectors. Hamas members reportedly burned down stores that stocked videos which they deemed indecent and destroyed books which they described as "heretical." [218]

In 2005, an outdoor music and dance performance in Qalqiliya were suddenly banned by the Hamas led municipality, for the reason that such an event would be forbidden by Islam, or "Haram".[219] The municipality also ordered that music no longer be played in the Qalqiliya zoo, and mufti Akrameh Sabri issued a religious edict affirming the municipality decision.[218] In response, the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish warned that "There are Taliban-type elements in our society, and this is a very dangerous sign".[217][218][220][221]

The Palestinian columnist Mohammed Abd Al-Hamid, a resident of Ramallah, wrote that this religious coercion could cause the migration of artists, and said "The religious fanatics in Algeria destroyed every cultural symbol, shattered statues and rare works of art and liquidated intellectuals and artists, reporters and authors, ballet dancers and singers – are we going to imitate the Algerian and Afghani examples?"[218]

Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey as a Role Model

Some Hamas members stated that the model of Islamic government that Hamas seeks to emulate is that of Turkey under the rule of Tayyip Erdoğan. The foremost members to distance Hamas from the practices of Taliban and to publicly support the Erdoğan model were Ahmad Yousef and Ghazi Hamad, advisers to Prime Minister Hanieh.[222][223] Yusuf, the Hamas deputy foreign minister, reflected this goal in an interview to a Turkish newspaper, stating that while foreign public opinion equates Hamas with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, the analogy is inaccurate. Yusuf described the Taliban as "opposed to everything," including education and women's rights, while Hamas wants to establish good relations between the religious and secular elements of society and strives for human rights, democracy and an open society.[224] According to professor Yezid Sayigh of the King's College in London, how influential this view is within Hamas is uncertain, since both Ahmad Yousef and Ghazi Hamad were dismissed from their posts as advisers to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh in October 2007.[222] Both have since been appointed to other prominent positions within the Hamas government. Khaled al-Hroub of the West Bank-based and anti-Hamas[225] Palestinian daily Al Ayyam added that despite claims by Hamas leaders that it wants to repeat the Turkish model of Islam, "what is happening on the ground in reality is a replica of the Taliban model of Islam".[226]

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism

According to academic Esther Webman, antisemitism is not the main tenet of Hamas ideology, although antisemitic rhetoric is frequent and intense in Hamas leaflets. The leaflets generally do not differentiate between Jews and Zionists. In other Hamas publications and in interviews with its leaders attempts at this differentiation have been made.[227] In 2009 representatives of the small Jewish sect Neturei Karta met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza, who stated that he held nothing against Jews but only against the state of Israel.[228]

Hamas has made conflicting statements about its readiness to recognize Israel. In 2006 a spokesman signaled readiness to recognize Israel within the 1967 borders. Speaking of requests for Hamas to recognize agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, senior Hamas member Khaled Suleiman said that "these agreements are a reality which we view as such, and therefore I see no problem." [229] Also in 2006, a Hamas official ruled out recognition of Israel with reference to West and East Germany which never recognized each other. [230]

Hamas Charter (1988)

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."[231]

"You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it."[232]

"Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."[231]

Statements by Hamas members and clerics

In 2008 Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas said in his sermon at the Katib Wilayat mosque in Gaza that "Jews are a people who cannot be trusted. They have been traitors to all agreements. Go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing.".[65][233]

Another Hamas legislator and imam, Sheik Yunus al-Astal, discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that "suffering by fire is the Jews' destiny in this world and the next". He concluded "Therefore we are sure that the Holocaust is still to come upon the Jews".[65][233]

In January 2009, Gazan Hamas Health Minister Basim Naim published a letter in The Guardian, stating that Hamas has no quarrel with Jewish people, only with the actions of Israel.[234]

In May 2009, senior Hamas MP Sayed Abu Musameh said that "in our culture, we respect every foreigner, especially Jews and Christians, but we are against Zionists, not as nationalists but as fascists and racists."[235]

Following the rededication of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem in March 2010, senior Hamas figure al-Zahar called on Palestinians everywhere to observe five minutes of silence "for Israel's disappearance and to identify with Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque." He further stated that "Wherever you have been you've been sent to your destruction. You've killed and murdered your prophets and you have always dealt in loan-sharking and destruction. You've made a deal with the devil and with destruction itself – just like your synagogue." [236][237]

On 8 January 2012, during a visit to Tunis, Gazan Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh told The Associated Press on that he disagrees with the anti-Semitic slogans. "We are not against the Jews because they are Jews. Our problem is with those occupying the land of Palestine," he said. "There are Jews all over the world, but Hamas does not target them.".[238]

In response to a statement by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas preferred non-violent means and had agreed to adopt "peaceful resistance," Hamas contradicted Abbas. According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri, "We had agreed to give popular resistance precedence in the West Bank, but this does not come at the expense of armed resistance."[239]

On August 10, 2012, Ahmad Bahr, Deputy Speaker of the Hamas Parliament, stated in a sermon which aired on Al-Aqsa TV that:

If the enemy sets foot on a single square inch of Islamic land, Jihad becomes an individual duty, incumbent on every Muslim, male or female. A woman may set out [on Jihad] without her husband's permission, and a servant without his master's permission. Why? In order to annihilate those Jews...Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one.[240][241][242][243]

In an interview with Al-Aqsa TV in September 12, 2012, Marwan Abu Ras, a Hamas MP, who is also a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, stated (as translated by MEMRI):

The Jews are behind each and every catastrophe on the face of the Earth. This is not open to debate. This is not a temporal thing, but goes back to days of yore. They concocted so many conspiracies and betrayed rulers and nations so many times that the people harbor hatred towards them...Throughout history – from Nebuchadnezzar until modern times... They slayed the prophets, and so on...Any catastrophe on the face of this Earth – the Jews must be behind it.[244]

On December 26, 2012, Senior Hamas official and Jerusalem bureau chief Ahmed Abu Haliba, called on “all Palestinian factions to resume suicide attacks...deep inside the Zionist enemy” and said that ”we must renew the resistance to occupation in any possible way, above all through armed resistance." Abu Haliba suggested the use of suicide bombings as a response to Israel's plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.[245]

Statements on the Holocaust

Hamas has been explicit in its Holocaust Denial. In reaction to the Stockholm conference on the Jewish Holocaust, held in late January 2000, Hamas issued a press release which it published on its official website, containing the following statements from a senior leader:

This conference bears a clear Zionist goal, aimed at forging history by hiding the truth about the so-called Holocaust, which is an alleged and invented story with no basis. (...) The invention of these grand illusions of an alleged crime that never occurred, ignoring the millions of dead European victims of Nazism during the war, clearly reveals the racist Zionist face, which believes in the superiority of the Jewish race over the rest of the nations. (...) By these methods, the Jews in the world flout scientific methods of research whenever that research contradicts their racist interests.[246]

In August 2003, senior Hamas official Dr Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi wrote in the Hamas newspaper Al-Risala that the Zionists encouraged murder of Jews by the Nazis with the aim of forcing them to immigrate to Palestine.[247]

In 2005, Khaled Mashal called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's December 14, 2005 statements on the Holocaust that Europeans had "created a myth in the name of Holocaust"[248]) as "courageous."[249] Later in 2008, Basim Naim, the minister of health in the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government in Gaza countered holocaust denial, and said "it should be made clear that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was not only a crime against humanity but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality."[250]

In an open letter to Gaza Strip UNRWA chief John Ging published August 20, 2009, the movement's Popular Committees for Refugees called the Holocaust "a lie invented by the Zionists," adding that the group refused to let Gazan children study about it.[251] Hamas leader Younis al-Astal continued by saying that having the Holocaust included in the UNRWA curriculum for Gaza students amounted to "marketing a lie and spreading it." Al-Astal continued "I do not exaggerate when I say this issue is a war crime, because of how it serves the Zionist colonizers and deals with their hypocrisy and lies."[252][253]

In February 2011, Hamas voiced opposition to UNRWA's teaching of the Holocaust in Gaza. According to Hamas, "Holocaust studies in refugee camps is a contemptible plot and serves the Zionist entity with a goal of creating a reality and telling stories in order to justify acts of slaughter against the Palestinian people."[254][255]

In July 2012, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, denounced a visit by Ziad al-Bandak, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to the Auschwitz death camp, saying it was "unjustified" and "unhelpful" and only served the "Zionist occupation" while coming "at the expense of a real Palestinian tragedy". He also called the Holocaust an "alleged tragedy" and "exaggerated."[256][257][258][259]

In October 2012, Hamas said that they were opposed to teaching about the Holocaust in Gaza Strip schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency. The Refugee Affairs Department of Hamas said that teaching the Holocaust was a “crime against the issue of the refugees that is aimed at canceling their right of return.”[260]

Criticism

Proximity to civilians during warfare

After operation pillar of defense, Human Rights Watch stated that Palestinian groups had endangered civilians by "repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas, near homes, businesses, and a hotel" and noted that under international law, parties to a conflict may not to place military targets in or near densely populated areas. One rocket was launched close to the Shawa and Housari Building, where various Palestinian and international media have offices; another was fired from the yard of a house near the Deira Hotel.[261][unreliable source?] [262][not in citation given] Human Rights Watch said it had not been able to identify any instance where civilians had been warned to evacuate an area before a rocket launch by Palestinian militants.[262][not in citation given]

New York Times journalist Steven Erlanger reported that "Hamas rocket and weapons caches, including rocket launchers, have been discovered in and under mosques, schools and civilian homes."[263] Another report published by Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center revealed that Hamas used close to 100 mosques to store weapons and as launch-pads to shoot rockets. The report contains testimony from variety Palestinian sources, including a Hamas militant Sabhi Majad Atar, who said he was taught how to shoot rockets from inside a mosque.[264] Hamas has also been criticized by Israeli officials for blending into or hiding among the Palestinian civilian population During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict.[265] The Israeli government published what it said was video evidence of human shield tactics by Hamas.[266] Israel said that Hamas frequently used mosques and school yards[267] as hideouts and places to store weapons,[268][269] and that Hamas militants stored weapons in their homes, making it difficult to ensure that civilians close to legitimate military targets are not hurt during Israeli military operations.[270] Israeli officials also accused the Hamas leadership of hiding under Shifa Hospital during the conflict, using the patients inside to deter an Israeli attack.[263][271]

The Israeli government a filed report entitled "Gaza Operations Investigation: Second Update" to the United Nations accusing Hamas of exploiting its rules of engagement by shooting rockets and launching attacks within protected civilian areas.[272][273][274] Israel says 12,000 rockets and mortars were fired at it between 2000 and 2008 - nearly 3,000 in 2008 alone.[275]

In one case, an errant Israeli mortar strike killed dozens of people near a UN school. Hamas said that the mortar killed 42 people and left dozens wounded. Israel said that Hamas militants had launched a rocket from a yard adjacent to the school and one mortar of three rounds hit the school, due to a GPS error. According to the Israeli military probe, the remaining two rounds hit the yard used to launch rockets into Israel, killing two members of Hamas' military wing who fired the rockets.[276]

Human Right Watch called Hamas to "publicly renounce" the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and hold those responsible to account. Human Right Watch program director Iain Levine said the attacks by Hamas were "unlawful and unjustifiable, and amount to war crimes", and accused Hamas of putting Palestinians at risk by launching attacks from built-up areas.[275] Hamas spokesman relied that the report was "biased" and he denied that Hamas uses human shields.[275]

Human Rights Watch investigated 19 incidents involving 53 civilian deaths in Gaza which Israel said were the result of Hamas fighting in densely populated areas and did not find evidence for existence of Palestinian fighters in the areas at the time of the Israeli attack. In other cases where no civilians had died, the report concluded that Hamas may have deliberately fired rockets from areas close to civilians.[277] HRW also investigated 11 deaths that Israel said were civilians being used as human shields by Hamas. HRW found no evidence that the civilians were used as human shields, nor had they been shot in crossfire.[278]

The Israeli 'human shields' charge against Hamas was called "full of holes" by "The National (Abu Dhabi)", which stated that only Israel accused Hamas of using human shields during the conflict, though Hamas "may be guilty" of "locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas" and for "deliberately firing indiscriminate weapons into civilian populated areas".[279]

Criticism of rocket and mortar attacks and the targeting of civilians

The rocket attacks by Hamas have been condemned by Human rights organizations as war crimes, both because they usually target civilians and because the weapons' inaccuracy would disproportionately endanger civilians even if military targets were chosen. After operation pillar of defense, Human Rights Watch stated that armed Palestinian groups fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, violating international humanitarian law, and that statements by Palestinian groups that they deliberately targeted Israeli civilians demonstrated an "intent to commit war crimes." HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said that Palestinian groups made clear that "harming civilians was their aim" and said that the launching rockets at populated areas had no legal justification. International humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians and intentional violations can be war crimes.[261]

In July 2008 Barack Obama, then the Democratic presidential candidate, said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."[280] On December 28, 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement: "the United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel".[281] On March 2, 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks.[282]

The August 2, 2010 Rocket attacks on Eilat and Aqaba sparked rage in Egypt at Hamas and Iran. The Egyptian press stated that the firing of the rockets from Egyptian territory by Hamas or by organizations cooperating with it constituted the crossing of a red line. The Egyptian position is that Iran is employing local proxies, such as Hamas, to escalate violence in the Middle East and to sabotage the Palestinian reconciliation efforts, as well as efforts to renew Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.[283] Later that year, the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya also slammed Hamas's firing of "primitive" rockets at Israel that, according to the writer, serve only to prompt a deadly response from Israel. He blamed Hamas for turning the Gaza Strip into a "big prison" isolated from the world, where the residents suffer poverty while the leaders live in luxury.[284]

Children

Children and women as human shields

Israel has accused Hamas of using children as human shields. The Israeli government released video footage in which it claims two militants are shown grabbing a young boy's arm from behind holding him to walk in front of them toward a group of people waiting near a wall. The IDF argues the militants were placing the boy between themselves and an Israeli sniper. The second scene shows an individual, described as a terrorist, grabbing a school boy off of a floor, where he is hiding behind a column from IDF fire, and using him as a human shield to walk to a different location.[285]

After 15 alleged militants sought refuge in a mosque from Israeli forces, the BBC reported that Hamas radio instructed local women to go the mosque to protect the militants. Two women were later killed when Israeli forces opened fire.[286]

In November 2006, the Israeli Air Force warned Muhammad Weil Baroud, commander of the Popular Resistance Committees who are accused of launching rockets into Israeli territory, to evacuate his home in a Jabalya refugee camp apartment block in advance of a planned Israeli air strike. Baroud responded by calling for volunteers to protect the apartment block and nearby buildings and, according to the Jerusalem Post, hundreds of local residents, mostly women and children, responded. Israel suspended the air strike. Israel termed the action an example of Hamas using human shields, although surrounding an apartment block under most interpretations of international law is not such an example, since the term "human shield" involves warring parties placing civilians in "proximity to a legitimate military target."[287][288][dead link] [289][dead link] In response to the incident, Hamas proclaimed: 'We won. From now on we will form human chains around every house threatened with demolition.'"[290] In a November 22 press release, Human Rights Watch condemned Hamas, stating: "There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack. Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm's way is unlawful".[291] Following criticism, Human rights Watch issued a statement saying that their initial assessment of the situation was in error. They stated that, on the basis of available evidence, the home demolition was in fact an administrative act, viewed in the context of Israel's longstanding policy of punitive home demolitions, not a military act and thus would not fall within the purview of the law regulating hostilities during armed conflict which had been the basis for their initial criticism of Hamas.[286]

When the UN-sponsored Goldstone Commission Report on the Gaza War was commissioned in 2009, it stated that it "found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack"though they deemed credible reports that Palestinian militants were "not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from civilians."[292] It criticised a statement issued by a senior Hamas figure before Operation Cast Lead that explained Hamas' logic behind the use of women, children and the elderly as human shields.[293]

Hamas MP Fathi Hamed stated that "For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel... the elderly excel at this... and so do the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children."[294]

Following the release of the Goldstone Report, the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp was invited to testify at the UN Human Rights Council 12th Special Session that during Operation Cast Lead Israel encountered an "enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population".[295][296]

The commander of the military wing of the PFLP-GC in the Gaza Strip stated in an interview that some areas did not present a problem because of the "population and building density" that would "provide the resistance with a shield".[293]

Children as combatants

The Israeli government released a video compiled mostly from Arab news sources showing Palestinian children under the age of 15 going through military training and carrying and firing arms. The video's narration explains that Hamas indoctrinates these child combatants and that Hamas operators send the children "on missions from which they would not risk their own lives." According to the Israeli government, the children are used as spotters, to transport explosives and weapons, sent to play in areas to deter Israeli attacks and are sent unknowingly with explosive devices in their schoolbags to be blown up in the vicinity of Israelis.[297] The United Nations defines the use of children for military purposes as a war crime and a form of slavery. See Military use of children.

Although Hamas admits to sponsoring summer schools to train teenagers in handling weapons they condemn attacks by children. Following the deaths of three teenagers during a 2002 attack on Netzarim in central Gaza, Hamas banned attacks by children and "called on the teachers and religious leaders to spread the message of restraint among young boys".[298][299]

Children's Magazine

Al-Fateh ("the conqueror") is the Hamas children's magazine, published biweekly in London, and also posted in an online website. It began publication in September 2002, and its 108th issue was released in mid-September 2007. The magazine features stories, poems, riddles, and puzzles, and states it is for "the young builders of the future".[300]

According to MEMRI, the magazine includes incitement to jihad and martyrdom and glorification of terrorist operations and of their planners and perpetrators. as well as characterizations of Jews as "murderers of the prophets" and laudatory descriptions of parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews. In each issue, a regular feature titled "The Story of a Martyr" presents the "heroic deeds" of a mujahid from one of the organizations who died in a suicide operation, including operations against civilians, or who was killed by the IDF. MEMRI also noted that the magazine includes illustrations of figures, including child warriors, who embody the ethos of jihad and martyrdom, presenting them as role models. These include the magazine's titular character, Al-Fateh ("The Conqueror") - a small boy on a horse brandishing a drawn scimitar - as well as children carrying guns, and photos of Hamas fighters launching Qassam rockets.[301][302]

Al-Aqsa TV

Al-Aqsa TV is a television channel founded by Hamas.[303] The station began broadcasting in the Gaza Strip on January 9, 2006.[304][305] Its programming includes ideologically tinged children's shows, news talk, and religiously inspired entertainment.[306] According to the Anti-Defamation League, the station promotes terrorist activity and incites hatred of Jews and Israelis.[305] Hamas has stated that the television station is "an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement," and that Hamas does not hold anti-semitic views.[211]

Al-Aqsa TV is headed by Fathi Ahmad Hammad, chairman of al-Ribat Communications and Artistic Productions - a Hamas-run company which also produces Hamas's radio station, Voice of al-Aqsa, and its bi-weekly newspaper, The Message.[307]

Teenage Academic Scholars Travel Ban

In September 2011, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Hamas minister of education informed eight high school National Merit Scholar students that they could not leave the Gaza Strip to study in the United States, saying the reasons were "social and cultural."[308]

Dissent and the media

Hamas mural in the West Bank

Human rights groups and Gazans have accused the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip of restricting freedom of the press and forcefully suppressing dissent. Both foreign and Palestinian journalists report harassment and other measures taken against them.[309][310] In September 2007 the Gaza Interior Ministry disbanded the Gaza Strip branch of the pro-Fatah Union of Palestinian Journalists, a move criticized by Reporters without borders.[311] In November of that year the Hamas government arrested a British journalist and for a time canceled all press cards in Gaza.[312][313] On February 8, 2008 Hamas banned distribution of the pro-Fatah Al-Ayyam newspaper, and closed its offices in the Gaza Strip because it ran a caricature that mocked legislators loyal to Hamas,.[314][315] The Gaza Strip Interior Ministry later issued an arrest warrant for the editor.[316]

More widely, in late August 2007 the group was accused in The Telegraph, a conservative British newspaper, of torturing, detaining, and firing on unarmed protesters who had objected to policies of the Hamas government.[317] Also in late August, Palestinian health officials reported that the Hamas government had been shutting down Gaza clinics in retaliation for doctor strikes – The Hamas government confirmed the "punitive measure against doctors" because, in its view, they had incited other doctors to suspend services and go out on strike.[318]

In September 2007 the Hamas government banned public prayers, after Fatah supporters began holding worship sessions that quickly escalated into raucous protests against Hamas rule. Government security forces beat several gathering supporters and journalists.[319]

In October 2008, the Hamas government announced it would release all political prisoners in custody in Gaza. Several hours after the announcement, 17 Fatah members were released.[320]

On 2 August 2012, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) accused Hamas of harassing elected officials belong to the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) in Gaza. The IFJ said that journalists' leaders in Gaza have faced a campaign of intimidation, as well as threats designed to force them to stop their union work. Some of these journalists are now facing charges of illegal activities and a travel ban, due to their refusal "to give in to pressure." The IFJ said that these accusations are "malicious" and "should be dropped immediately." The IFJ explained that the campaign against PJS members began in March 2012, after their election, and included a raid organized by Hamas supporters who took over the PJS offices in Gaza with the help of the security forces, and subsequently evicted the staff and elected officials. Other harassment includes the targeting of individuals who were bullied into stopping union work. The IFJ backed the PJS and called on Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to intervene to stop "his officials' unwarranted intereference in journalists' affairs."[321]

In November 2012, two Gazan journalists were prevented from leaving Gaza by Hamas. There were scheduled to participate in a conference in Cairo, Egypt. After being questioned by security forces, their passports were confiscated.[322]

Human rights abuses

In June 2011, the Independent Commission for Human Rights based in Ramallah published a report whose findings included that the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an "almost systematic campaign" of human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities, with the security forces belonging to the PA and Hamas being responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.[323]

In 2012 the Human Rights Watch presented a 43 page long list of human rights violation committed by Hamas. Among actions attributed to Hamas the HRW report mentions beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, hanging of alleged collaborationists with Israel, and torture of 102 individuals. According to the report, Hamas also tortured civil society activists and peaceful protesters. Reflecting on the captivity of Gilad Shalit, the HRW report described it as "cruel and inhuman". The report also slams Hamas for harassment of people based on so called morality offenses and for media censorship.[324][325] In a public statement Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director of HRW claimed that "after five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees' rights and grants impunity to abusive security services". Hamas responded by denying charges and describing them as "politically motivated"[326]

Political violence and terrorism

Hamas uses both political activities and violence in pursuit of its goals. For example, while politically engaged in the 2006 Palestinian Territories parliamentary election campaign, Hamas stated in its election manifesto that it was prepared to use "armed resistance to end the occupation".[327]

From 2000 to 2004, Hamas was responsible for killing nearly 400 Israelis and wounding more than 2,000 in 425 attacks, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2001 through May 2008, Hamas launched more than 3,000 Qassam rockets and 2,500 mortar attacks into Israel.[13]

Attacks on civilians

In the first years of the First Intifada (1987–1993), Hamas violence was directed first at collaborators with Israel and at individuals it considered moral deviants, and then later at the Israeli military.[328] A new direction began with the formation of the al-Qassam Brigades militia in 1992, and in 1993 suicide attacks began against Israeli targets on the West Bank.[329]

Aftermath of 1996 Jaffa Road bus bombings in which 26 people were killed

The first such attack occurred on April 16, 1993, when an al-Qassam Brigades operative detonated explosives in a car he parked next to two buses, one military and one civilian, in the West Bank town of Mehola, killing a Palestinian civilian and wounding 8 Israeli soldiers.[330] After the February 1994 massacre by Baruch Goldstein of 30 Muslim civilians in a Hebron mosque, the al-Qassam Brigades expanded suicide attacks to target primarily civilians.[88] The first of the suicide bombings that targeted civilians was at Afula on April 16, 1994, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car next to a bus, killing nine (including the bomber) and wounding 50. The most deadly suicide bombing was an attack on a Netanya hotel on March 27, 2002, in which 30 people were killed and 140 were wounded. The attack has also been referred to as the Passover massacre since it took place on the first night of the Jewish festival of Passover at a Seder.

Hamas defended the suicide attacks as a legitimate aspect of its asymmetric warfare against Israel, but the practice is illegal under international law.[331][332] Hamas renounced suicide attacks in April 2006.[22] In a 2002 report, Human Rights Watch stated that Hamas leaders "should be held accountable" for "war crimes and crimes against humanity" committed by the al-Qassam Brigades.[333][334][335]

In May 2006 Israel arrested a top Hamas official, Ibrahim Hamed, who Israeli security officials alleged was responsible for dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis.[336] Hamed's trial on those charges has not yet concluded.[337]

While the suicide attacks ceased in 2005, al-Qassam Brigades rocket and mortar attacks on towns and settlements near Gaza continued. Since 2002, paramilitary soldiers of al-Qassam Brigades and other groups have used homemade Qassam rockets to hit Israeli towns in the Negev, such as Sderot. Al-Qassam Brigades was estimated in 2007 to have launched 22% of the rocket and mortar attacks,[338] which killed fifteen people between the years 2000 and 2009 (see Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel).[339] The introduction of the Qassam-2 rocket in 2008 enabled Palestinian paramilitary groups to reach, from Gaza, such Israeli cities such as Ashkelon.[340]

In 2008, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, offered that Hamas would attack only military targets if the IDF would stop causing the deaths of Palestinian civilians.[341] Following a June 19, 2008 ceasefire, the al-Qassam Brigades ended its rocket attacks and arrested Fatah militants in Gaza who had continued sporadic rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. The al-Qassam Brigades resumed the attacks after the November 4 Israeli incursion into Gaza.[29][30]

Rocket attacks on Israel

According to Human Rights Watch, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have launched thousands of rockets into Israel since 2001, killing 15 civilians, wounding many more, and posing an ongoing threat to the nearly 800,000 Israeli civilians who live and work in the weapons' range. Hamas officials have said that the rockets were aimed only at military targets, saying that civilian casualties were the "accidental result" of the weapons' poor quality. According to Human Rights Watch, statements by Hamas leaders suggest that the purpose of the rocket attacks was indeed to strike civilians and civilian objects. From January 2009, following Operation Cast Lead, Hamas largely stopped launching rocket attacks on Israel and has on at least two occasions arrested members of other groups who have launched rockets, "showing that it has the ability to impose the law when it wants".[342] In February 2010, Hamas issued a statement regretting any harm that may have befallen Israeli civilians as a result of Palestinian rocket attacks during the Gaza war. It maintained that its rocket attacks had been aimed at Israeli military targets but lacked accuracy and hence sometimes hit civilian areas. Israel responded that Hamas had boasted repeatedly of targeting and murdering civilians in the media.[343]

Attempts to derail 2010 peace talks

In 2010, Hamas, who have been actively sidelined from the peace talks by Israel[citation needed], spearheaded a coordinated effort by 13 Palestinian militant groups, in attempt to derail the stalled peace talks between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority. According to the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major Gen. Eitan Dangot, Israel seeks to work with Salam Fayyad, to help revive the Palestinian economy, and hopes to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip further, "while somehow preventing the Islamic militants who rule it from getting credit for any progress". According to Dangot, Hamas must not be seen as ruling successfully or be allowed to "get credit for a policy that would improve the lives of people."[344] The campaign consists of attacks against Israelis in which, according to a Hamas declaration in early September, "all options are open".[345][346][347][348] The participating groups also include Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and an unnamed splinter group of Fatah.[349]

As part of the campaign, on August 31, 2010, 4 Israeli settlers, including a pregnant woman, were killed by Hamas militants while driving on Route 60 near the settlement Kiryat Arba, in the West bank. According to witnesses, militants opened fire on the moving vehicle, but then "approached the car" and shot the occupants in their seats at "close range". The attack was described by Israeli sources as one of the "worst" terrorist acts in years.[350][351][352] A senior Hamas official said that Israeli settlers in the West Bank are legitimate targets since "they are an army in every sense of the word".[353][354]

Themes of martyrdom

According to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch, in 2008, Fathi Hamad, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, stated on Al-Aqsa TV, "For the Palestinian people death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly (Palestinians) created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death as you desire life'."[355]

In 2010, Hamas speaker Ahmad Bahr praised the virtues of martyrdom and Jihad, and said that 2.5 million black-eyed virgins were waiting in the Garden of Eden which could be entered only by prophets, by the righteous, and by martyrs. He continued by saying that nobody on Earth "will be able to confront the resistance, or to confront the mujahideen, those who worship Allah and seek martyrdom."[356]

Guerrilla warfare

Hamas has made great use of guerrilla tactics in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser degree the West Bank.[357] It has successfully adapted these techniques over the years since its inception. According to a 2006 report by rival Fatah party, Hamas had smuggled between several hundred and 1,300 tons of advanced rockets, along with other weaponry, into Gaza.[357]

Hamas has used IEDs and anti-tank rockets against the IDF in Gaza. The latter include standard RPG-7 warheads and home-made rockets such as the Al-Bana, Al-Batar and Al-Yasin. The IDF has a difficult, if not impossible time trying to find hidden weapons caches in Palestinian areas — this is due to the high local support base Hamas enjoys.[358]

Other targets and activities

In addition to killing Israeli civilians and armed forces, Hamas has also attacked suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.[359] In the wake of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in January 2009, Hamas has been accused of systematically rounding up, torturing and summarily executing Fatah supporters suspected of supplying information to Israel.[360]

On February 2007, members of the Palestinian Red Crescent, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said that Hamas had confiscated their humanitarian supply convoys that were destined for Palestinian civilians.

Human Rights Watch has cited a number of summary executions as particular examples of violations of the rules of warfare, including the case of Muhammad Swairki, 28, a cook for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard, who was thrown to his death, with his hands and legs tied, from a 15-story apartment building in Gaza City.[361]

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are accused of frequently extrajudicially executing or otherwise punishing those considered collaborators with Israel. Frequent killings of unarmed people have also occurred during Hamas-Fatah clashes.[362][363]

Thousands of angry Hamas loyalists marched on February 24, 2008 at the funeral of a Muslim preacher who died in PNA custody, turning the ceremony into a rare show of defiance against President Mahmoud Abbas.[364]

On August 14, 2009 Hamas fighters stormed the Mosque of radical cleric Abdel-Latif Moussa.[365] The cleric was protected by at least 100 fighters from Jund Ansar Allah ("Army of the Helpers of God"), an Islamist group with links to Al-Qaeda. The resulting battle left at least 13 people dead, including Moussa and 6 Hamas fighters, and 120 people injured.[366] During November 2012 Hamas military wing took responsibility for the public execution of 6 man, accused by Izzedine al-Qassam with collaboration with Israel. According to the witnesses, the six alleged informers were shot dead one by one in Gaza City, while the corpse of the sixth victim was tied by a cable to the back of a motorcycle and dragged through the streets.[367]

International designation of Hamas

CountryDesignation
 AustraliaThe military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is listed as a terrorist organization.[368]
 CanadaUnder the Anti-Terrorism Act, Hamas is described as a terrorist organization.[not in citation given (See discussion.)][369][370]
 European UnionHamas has been included in the black list of EU-designated terrorists groups since 2003[10]
 IsraelThe Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that "Hamas maintains a terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank, and acts to carry out terrorist attacks in the territories and Israel."[371]
 JapanAs of 2005, Japan had frozen the assets of 472 terrorists and terrorist organizations including those of Hamas.[372]
 JordanBanned Hamas in 1999[373] Now seeking to restore relations and resettle Hamas leadership in Jordan.[374]
 NorwayNorway was the first Western country to recognize the 2007 Palestinian government consisting of both Hamas and Fatah, and Norwegian officials have met with Hamas representatives on several occasions. "We know that the USA and the EU have legal obligations since they have Hamas on their terrorist list. We must be able to take an independent decision about contact," Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre responded to a 2006 United States' attempt to dissuade Norwegian contact with Hamas.[375]
 RussiaRussia does not designate Hamas a terrorist organisation, and held direct talks with Hamas in 2006, after Hamas won the Palestine elections, stating that it did so to press Hamas to reject violence and recognise Israel.[376] An Israeli official has said that Russia will reduce its ties to Hamas.[377]
 TurkeyThe Turkish government met with Hamas leaders in February 2006, after the organization's victory in the Palestinian elections. In 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described Hamas as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."[378][379]
 United KingdomThe Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have been listed as a terrorist organization under the Terrorism Act since 2001. As a consequence of listing by the EU on 12 September 2003, the UK Government listed Hamas as a whole as a terrorist organization on 22 September 2003.[380]
 United StatesLists Hamas as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization"[381]

According to Tobias Buck, while Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, few treat it that way. In the Arab and Muslim world, Hamas has lost its pariah status and its emissaries are welcomed in capitals of Islamic countries. [382]

United States designation of Hamas

The State Department decided to add Hamas to its U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in April 1993.[17] As of 2009, Hamas is still listed.[383]

The United States states that its strong stand against Hamas arises from the group's use of violence, its opposition to U.S. interests in the Middle East, and because Hamas is allegedly receiving support from Iran and collaborating with the Lebanese group Hezbullah. The Hamas representative in Iran denied the allegation that it had received $30 million from Iran in 1992, but acknowledged Iranian assistance to Palestinian groups. In particular, the U.s. alleges that Hamas soldiers have been given refuge in southern Lebanon, where they receive training and support from Hezbollah guerrillas.

The FBI and United States Department of Justice also stated, in 2004, that Hamas threatened the United States through covert cells on US soil.[384][385] Researcher Steven Emerson in 2006 alleged that the group had "an extensive infrastructure in the US mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human-rights front groups." Emerson added that while the group had never acted outside of Israel or the Palestinian Territories, it does have the capacity to carry out attacks in the U.S. "if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations."[386] FBI director Robert Mueller in 2005 testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that, the FBI's assessment at that time was that there was "a limited threat of a coordinated terrorist attack in the US from Palestinian terrorist organizations" such as Hamas. He added that Hamas had "maintained a longstanding policy of focusing their attacks on Israeli targets in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and that the FBI believed that the main interest of Hamas in the U.S.remained "the raising of funds to support their regional goals." Mueller also stated that, "of all the Palestinian groups, Hamas has the largest presence in the US, with a robust infrastructure, primarily focused on fundraising, propaganda for the Palestinian cause, and proselytizing. Although it would be a major strategic shift for Hamas, its US network is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the US[387]

On 2 May 2011, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by the United States.[388] Haniyeh praised Bin Laden, the founder of the jihadist organization al-Qaeda, as a "martyr" and an "Arab holy warrior".[389][390] The United States government condemned his remarks as "outrageous".[391]

Public opinion of Hamas

In Arab countries

Pro-Hamas rally in Damascus

A 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that 60% of Jordanian Muslims and 49% of Muslims in both Lebanon and Egypt held a favorable opinion of Hamas.[392] A 2007 Pew survey found 62% of Palestinians holding a favorable opinion of the group.[393]

In Israel

In February 2008 a Haaretz poll indicated that 64% of Israelis favour their government holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza about a cease-fire and the release of captives.[394]

According to a November 2009 survey conducted by Haaretz, 57% of Israelis support the view of MK Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, that Israel should establish a dialogue with Hamas under certain conditions, for example, that Hamas renounces violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish nation, and loses its designation as a terrorist organization. Hamas responded to this by labeling it "Zionist vulgarity" and stating that they will never negotiate with or recognize their "enemy", the state of Israel.[395][396]

Legal action against Hamas

In the USA

The charitable trust Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was accused in December 2001 of funding Hamas.[397] The US Justice Department filed 200 charges against the foundation. The case first ended in a mistrial, in which jurors acquitted on some counts and were deadlocked on charges ranging from tax violations to providing material support for terrorists. In a retrial, on November 24, 2008, the five leaders of the Foundation were convicted on 108 counts.[398]

Hamas is an extremist group...it is one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world today.

—George W. Bush[399][400]

In 2004, a federal court in the United States found Hamas liable in a civil lawsuit for the 1996 murders of Yaron and Efrat Ungar near Bet Shemesh, Israel. Hamas has been ordered to pay the families of the Ungars $116 million.[401] On July 5, 2004, the court issued a default judgment against the PNA and the PLO regarding the Ungars' said that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO provide safe haven to Hamas.

On August 20, 2004, three Palestinians, one a naturalized American citizen, were charged with a "lengthy racketeering conspiracy to provide money for terrorist acts in Israel." The indicted include Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a senior member of Hamas considered a fugitive by the US.

On February 1, 2007, two men were acquitted of contravening US law by supporting Hamas.[402] Both men argued that they helped move money for Palestinian causes aimed at helping the Palestinian people and not to promote terrorism.

In January 2009, a Federal prosecutor accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of having links to a charity designated as a support network for Hamas.[403] The Justice Department identified CAIR as an "un-indicted co-conspirator" in the Holy Land Foundation case in Dallas, which concluded with the sentencing of the two founders of the foundation to life in prison for funneling $12 million to Hamas.[404] Later, a federal appeals court removed that label for all parties and instead, named them "joint venturers."[405]

In Germany

A German federal court ruled in 2004 that Hamas was a unified organisation whose humanitarian aid work could not be separated from its "terrorist and political activities." [406] In July 2010, Germany also outlawed Frankfurt-based International Humanitarian Aid Organization (IHH e.V.), saying it had used donations to support Hamas-affiliated relief projects in Gaza.[407][408] While presenting their activities to donors as humanitarian assistance, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, IHH e.V. had "exploited trusting donors' willingness to help by using money that was given for a good purpose for supporting what is, in the final analysis, a terrorist organization."[407][408][409] A spokesperson for the Islamic Human Rights Commission described the decision as "a victory for those who seek to stigmatise all Islamic activism as supporting terrorism."[410]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c "Mash'al reelected leader of Hamas politburo". Ma'an news agency. April 27, 2009. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=210134.
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Bibliography

External links