What is Hamas: History, Strategy And Charter Explained (November 2023)

This comprehensive analysis offers a thorough analysis of Hamas, its ideologies, strategies, and the dynamics it introduces into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Understanding Hamas’ history, core beliefs, and military and political approaches is crucial to comprehending the complexities of the conflict and exploring potential paths towards peace in the region.

What is Hamas?

Hamas, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, translates to the Islamic Resistance Movement in English. It is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist, militant, and nationalist organization. Formed in 1987, Hamas emerged through the efforts of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and religious factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The organization’s core objective is the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine.

Brief History and Formation

Hamas officially came into existence in December 1987, during the initial stages of the Palestinian intifada, an uprising against Israeli occupation. The group was founded as a response to the oppression and struggles faced by Palestinians under Israeli rule. Hamas rapidly gained momentum and support, attracting members primarily from the Muslim Brotherhood and religious factions of the PLO. As it evolved, Hamas underwent reorganization to fortify its command structure and ensure the safety of its key leaders, relocating them beyond Israel’s reach.

The organization began to assert its independence from other Palestinian groups, which sometimes led to tensions with its secular nationalist counterparts. The increased intensity of Hamas-led attacks on both civilian and military targets prompted Israel to take action, resulting in the arrest of several Hamas leaders in 1989, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s founder.

Hamas’ Core Beliefs and Ideology

Hamas’ ideology is deeply rooted in religious and nationalist convictions. Central to its beliefs is the idea that Palestine is an Islamic homeland that must never be surrendered to non-Muslims. Hamas considers it a religious duty for Palestinian Muslims to engage in holy war (jihad) to regain control of Palestine from Israeli occupation. The group is unwavering in its commitment to the destruction of Israel and advocates for the establishment of an Islamic society in historic Palestine. Hamas envisions replacing Israel with an Islamic republic in Palestine.

Apart from its military pursuits, Hamas operates a two-fold structure: a social service wing known as Dawah, addressing various community needs, and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of the organization responsible for defense and armed resistance.

Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal are based in Qatar, where they continue to lead and advocate for the organization’s objectives. Additionally, Hamas receives significant material and financial support from Iran, and Turkey reportedly harbors some of its top leaders.

Hamas’ Objectives and Endgame

What is Hamas Trying to Accomplish?

At the core of Hamas’ mission lies a profound desire for the establishment of an independent Islamic state within historical Palestine. This envisioned state encompasses the territories of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. It’s important to note that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s statehood but instead advocates for a Palestinian state based on the borders established in 1967.

Hamas pursues these objectives through a range of tactics, including attacks on Israeli soldiers, settlers, and civilians both within the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel itself. These actions reflect their unwavering commitment to challenging and resisting Israeli occupation and asserting Palestinian sovereignty.

Political Goals and Aspirations

Hamas, an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, exercises political control over the Gaza Strip, an area covering approximately 365 square kilometers and home to over two million people. Despite its control, the region remains blockaded by Israel, impacting the lives and livelihoods of its inhabitants.

Hamas’ rise to power in the Gaza Strip dates back to 2007, following a brief war against Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads both the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Subsequently, Hamas secured the majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority’s legislature and established a government in 2006. Since Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in 2005, Hamas has maintained de facto authority in Gaza.

The political influence of Hamas can be attributed to its appeal to the populace, leveraging the provision of social services as a means to win votes. Additionally, discontent with the incumbent Fatah, perceived as corrupt and ineffective in its negotiations with Israel, played a significant role in Hamas’ electoral success.

Hamas’ Vision for a Palestinian State

Hamas’ vision for a Palestinian state is deeply entrenched in its ideological framework. The organization advocates for the creation of an Islamic republic within Palestine to replace the existing state of Israel. Violence has historically been an integral part of Hamas’ strategy to liberate occupied Palestinian territories and has called for the annihilation of Israel.

In a notable development in 2017, Hamas presented a new document that, while accepting the possibility of an interim Palestinian state along the “Green Line” border established before the Six-Day War, still refused to recognize Israel. The organization remains steadfast in its commitment to annihilating Israel and has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on civilians and Israeli soldiers. As part of its unwavering stance, Hamas continues to reject the Oslo peace accords negotiated by Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s.

Hamas’ Strategy and Tactics

Hamas, in its pursuit of political and military objectives, employs a multifaceted approach that encompasses military, political, and social strategies. Additionally, the organization relies on the use of violence and propaganda to further its cause and bolster its influence.

Analyzing Hamas’ Strategy

1- Military Approach

Hamas operates a well-structured military wing known as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has been active in anti-Israel attacks within Israel and the Palestinian territories since the 1990s. The nature of these attacks ranges from large-scale bombings against Israeli civilian targets to smaller-scale small-arms attacks, improvised roadside explosives, and rocket assaults. Employing guerrilla warfare tactics such as ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and suicide bombings, Hamas seeks to advance its military objectives and challenge Israeli occupation.

2- Political Approach

Politically, Hamas has established itself as one of the significant political parties in the Palestinian territories, exercising governance over more than two million Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip. This influence was solidified in 2007 following a brief war against Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, ultimately leading to their control over the Gaza Strip. Winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority’s legislature and forming a government in 2006, Hamas has been the de facto authority in Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in 2005.

3- Social Approach

Apart from military and political pursuits, Hamas operates a crucial social service wing known as Dawah. Through Dawah, Hamas provides an array of vital services to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, spanning education, healthcare, and welfare. The provision of these social services has not only benefited the populace but has also garnered support and votes for Hamas. It served as a rejection of the incumbent Fatah, which was viewed by many voters as having grown corrupt and ineffective in its negotiations with Israel.

Role of Violence and Propaganda

Hamas employs violence as a strategic means to liberate occupied Palestinian territories and has consistently advocated for the annihilation of Israel. Furthermore, propaganda plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and justifying Hamas’ stance within the Palestinian community. The organization’s propaganda aims to depict Israel as an oppressive occupier, emphasizing the impact of military operations and policies on Palestinians, particularly innocent civilians and children. It frames Hamas’ attacks as acts of self-defense or retaliation against perceived injustices and incorporates anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tropes to strengthen its narrative.

Influence of Hamas Over the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist organization, wields a substantial influence over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shaping its trajectory and dynamics in several critical ways.

Hamas’ core objective is the establishment of an independent Islamic state within historical Palestine, encompassing territories that include Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. This objective has led to Hamas being designated as a “terrorist” organization by various nations and entities, including Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada, Egypt, and Japan.

One of the significant manifestations of Hamas’ influence came in 2007 when the organization assumed control of the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel declared the Gaza Strip under Hamas a hostile entity and imposed sanctions, including power cuts, further intensifying the conflict dynamics.

Military Tactics and Political Clout

Hamas employs a variety of strategies, including military approaches, to advance its agenda. Their military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been active since the 1990s, conducting numerous anti-Israel attacks in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. These attacks range from large-scale bombings to small-arms assaults, improvised roadside explosives, and rocket attacks. Utilizing guerrilla warfare tactics, such as ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and suicide bombings, Hamas has consistently pursued its military objectives, challenging Israeli occupation.

Beyond military operations, Hamas holds significant political sway. It is one of the major political parties in the Palestinian territories, governing over two million Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip. Having secured the majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority’s legislature and forming a government in 2006, Hamas has maintained de facto authority in Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in 2005.

Social Services and Propaganda

In addition to military and political endeavors, Hamas actively engages in social services through its Dawah wing, providing vital services such as education, healthcare, and welfare to the people of Gaza. This approach has helped Hamas secure support and gain popularity, positioning itself as a provider of essential services and garnering favor over the incumbent Fatah, seen as corrupt and ineffective.

Hamas also utilizes propaganda as a strategic tool to maintain its influence. Propaganda plays a crucial role in justifying Hamas’ position within the Palestinian community and legitimizing its rule in Gaza. Hamas’ propaganda portrays Israel as an oppressive occupier and frames its attacks as acts of self-defense or retaliation, bolstering its narrative within and beyond the Palestinian community.

The Anti-Israel Hamas Covenant

The Hamas Covenant, also known as the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, was issued on August 18, 1988, providing insight into the fundamental beliefs and goals of Hamas, also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement. The following excerpts from the Hamas Covenant reveal the core ideology and stand of Hamas:

  1. Founding Identity and Aims: The Covenant aims to clarify the identity, stand, and goals of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). It emphasizes the seriousness of their struggle against the Jews, deeming it a significant and inevitable step.
  2. Solution through Jihad: Hamas staunchly asserts that the Palestinian question can only be resolved through Jihad, dismissing diplomatic initiatives and international conferences as futile. They believe the Palestinian people should not allow their future and rights to be toyed with.
  3. Palestine as an Islamic Land: Asserting the sanctity of Palestine as an Islamic possession until Judgment Day, the Covenant underlines that no one has the authority to relinquish any part of it.
  4. Liberation of Palestine: Hamas declares the liberation of Palestine as an individual duty for every Muslim, regardless of their location.
  5. Condemnation of Zionist Expansion: The Covenant condemns the Zionist plan for limitless expansion, citing aspirations to extend from the Nile to the Euphrates, cautioning against the perilous consequences of not countering Zionism.
  6. Condemnation of the Secular State: Criticizing the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for adopting a secular state ideology, Hamas stresses alignment with Islam and promises support once the PLO embraces Islamic principles.
  7. Challenges Posed by Zionism: Accusing Zionism of promoting vices like drug trade and alcoholism to facilitate control and expansion, Hamas urges individuals across various sectors to fulfill their duties to counter Zionist influence.
  8. Adherence to Islamic Ideals: The Covenant emphasizes that Hamas’s goal is to follow Islamic principles, considering Allah and the Prophet as guiding ideals. Jihad is considered the righteous path, and death for the sake of Allah is exalted as the highest belief.
  9. The Current State of Islam: Addressing the prevalent challenges, Hamas bemoans the declining influence of Islam in contemporary life, advocating for a revival of Islamic faith to combat prevailing evils, oppression, and injustice.

Israel’s Perspective: Why Doesn’t Israel Destroy Hamas?

Israel’s approach to handling Hamas is a complex interplay of various factors, each carrying significant weight in shaping its stance and actions regarding the Palestinian organization. The intricate dynamics of this relationship are influenced by both domestic and international considerations.

Balancing Security with Diplomatic Efforts

One of the paramount challenges Israel faces is striking a delicate balance between safeguarding its national security and engaging in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Israel is committed to ensuring the safety of its citizens and has shown a willingness to engage in negotiations and make concessions to establish a lasting peace. However, this must be balanced with the responsibility to protect its population from Hamas-initiated attacks.

International Implications and Considerations

Israel operates in a global context where international pressure weighs significantly on its actions. The United States, European Union, and several other countries have urged Israel to pursue peaceful resolutions and avoid disproportionate use of force against Hamas. This international scrutiny influences Israel’s approach, reinforcing the need for measured responses and diplomatic engagement.

Regional Implications

The conflict between Israel and Hamas holds substantial implications beyond national borders. It impacts the stability of the Middle East and the regional balance of power. Hamas, supported by Iran, is seen as a crucial factor in Iran’s efforts to maintain its influence in the region, presenting a broader geopolitical concern for Israel and neighboring nations.

Domestic Politics

Domestic political considerations shape Israel’s handling of the Hamas conflict. The Israeli government’s stance and policies are influenced by the ideology and views of the ruling party. The current right-wing government’s approach has triggered public demonstrations and raised concerns among former Israeli diplomatic and security officials, reflecting the diverse range of perspectives within Israeli society.

Military Considerations

Israel’s military capabilities and strategies play a pivotal role in its approach to Hamas. Israel possesses a formidable security apparatus, yet Hamas, with its recent attacks, has showcased unexpected capabilities, prompting Israel to continually reassess its military approach and preparedness.

The Peace Process: Israel and Hamas Negotiations

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been entrenched for decades, marked by persistent efforts to find a path towards peace. The history of negotiations between Israel and Hamas provides valuable insights into the complexities and challenges of fostering lasting peace in the region.

DateNegotiation
1994Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities
2007Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip
2013Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
2014Israel halted peace talks with the Palestinians
2021Tensions in Jerusalem boiled over and led to the greatest escalation of violence since 2014

The Outcomes of Peace Talks

  1. 1994: An initial glimmer of hope emerged with the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities signed by Israel and the Palestinians. This signaled an early attempt at establishing dialogue and cooperation.
  2. 2007: However, negotiations were significantly impeded by the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, disrupting any ongoing talks and exacerbating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
  3. 2013: In 2013, direct negotiations were rekindled between Israel and the Palestinians, following an initiative led by United States Secretary of State John Kerry. This marked an earnest attempt to restart the peace process.
  4. 2014: Unfortunately, the peace talks hit a roadblock in 2014 when Israel halted negotiations with the Palestinians, citing refusal to negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization.
  5. 2021: The year 2021 saw a resurgence of violence, with heightened tensions in Jerusalem leading to the most severe escalation since 2014. Hamas launched rockets into Israel, met by Israel’s airstrikes, reflecting the deep-rooted conflict.

Challenges and Prospects for Peace Talks

The pursuit of peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict faces numerous hurdles and offers glimpses of hope for the future.

  1. Hamas’ Role: Hamas, designated as a “terrorist” organization by key global entities, poses a significant challenge to peace talks. Israel deems Hamas a threat to its security, refusing to engage in negotiations.
  2. Settlements: The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank stands as a substantial obstacle, undermining the prospects for a two-state solution—a vital component for lasting peace.
  3. Jerusalem: The contested status of Jerusalem, claimed as the capital by both Israel and the Palestinians, is a major point of contention and requires a delicate resolution for peace to be achieved.
  4. International Pressure: The international community’s involvement is crucial in promoting and pressuring both sides to make necessary concessions, advancing the peace process.
  5. Domestic Politics: Domestic politics within Israel and the Palestinian territories also present challenges to peace talks. Leaders may face opposition from their constituents, impacting the negotiation process.

Military Power Comparison: Hamas vs. Israel

Analyzing Military Capabilities

Hamas and Israel possess vastly divergent military capabilities, each defining their unique strategies and approaches in the ongoing conflict. Israel’s military might is akin to that of major Western powers like America or Britain, characterized by a conventional approach. In contrast, Hamas employs a guerrilla-style military, employing different tactics and resources to achieve their objectives.

Hamas:

  1. Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades: Hamas operates a military wing known as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, responsible for numerous anti-Israel attacks conducted both within Israel and Palestinian territories.
  2. Military Tactics: Hamas’s attacks include a range of strategies, such as large-scale bombings against Israeli civilian targets, small-arms attacks, improvised explosives, and rocket assaults, indicating their guerrilla warfare approach.
  3. Social Service Wing: Alongside its military activities, Hamas maintains a social service wing, Dawah, which provides essential services to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, bolstering its support within the population.
  4. Iranian Support: Hamas maintains close ties with Iran, benefiting from crucial financial and military support that enhances its operational capacity.

Israel:

  1. Technologically Advanced Military: Israel boasts one of the most technologically sophisticated, well-armed, and professionally trained militaries globally, considering its small size.
  2. Weapons Systems: Israel possesses a spectrum of advanced weapons systems, including fighter jets, tanks, and missile defense systems, ensuring a robust defense mechanism.
  3. Conscription-Based Military: Israel’s military is conscription-based, with a significant portion of its citizens mandated to serve, emphasizing a professional approach to national defense.
  4. International Support: Israel enjoys a strong relationship with the United States, receiving substantial financial and military backing, enhancing its overall capabilities.

Here is quick snapshot of Hamas Vs Israel Military Comparison:

FactorHamasIsrael
LeadersYahya SinwarNaftali Bennett
Financial Budget for MilitaryUnknown$20 billion
Weapons StrategyGuerrilla warfare tactics, including ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and suicide bombingsHighly trained and professional military, with a strong emphasis on intelligence gathering and analysis
ManpowerBetween 10,000-20,000 fighters176,500 active personnel and 445,000 reserve personnel
GunsAK-47, M16, M4, and other small armsTavor assault rifle, M16, M4, and other small arms
TanksNoneOver 2,500
Fighter JetsNoneOver 300
Naval VesselsSmall boats and shipsMissile boats, submarines, and other naval vessels

Key Factors Shaping Strategies

The disparity in military capabilities between Hamas and Israel is a critical factor shaping their respective military strategies. Hamas relies on asymmetrical guerrilla warfare tactics and support from Iran, leveraging their social service wing to bolster local backing. Conversely, Israel, backed by the United States, emphasizes technological sophistication, intelligence gathering, and a highly professional military.

Conclusion

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is an intricate and longstanding issue deeply entrenched in history, laden with a multitude of factors influencing their military strategies. The pronounced disparity in military capabilities, notably Hamas’ guerrilla-style approach juxtaposed with Israel’s conventional might, underscores the complexity of this conflict. Iran’s support for Hamas and the United States’ alliance with Israel add geopolitical dimensions to the ongoing struggle. The conflict has inflicted significant casualties and damage on both sides, while successful peace negotiations remain elusive. International intervention holds promise in advancing peace talks and encouraging concessions from both parties. The path to a peaceful resolution is arduous, demanding continuous attention and concerted efforts to navigate towards lasting peace in the region.

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  • News Desk

    News Desk at EU Intelligence Publishes EU-focused current affair news on Politics, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Corruption, Lobbying, Military & War.

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