- (Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiya)Palestinian militant Islamist movement founded in the Gaza Strip in December 1987; also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement. Its name literally means "zeal" or "enthusiasm" in Arabic. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas arose shortly after the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada. The Hamas Charter—the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement-Palestine—was published on 18 August 1988. Its declared goal is the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic State.Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin was Hamas' founder, spiritual leader, and bearer of ultimate political authority. He was arrested by Israel in May 1989 and sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism charges. Yassin was released by Israel and permitted to return to the Gaza Strip following the failed Mossad attempted assassination of Hamas senior political activist Khaled Mashaal in Amman, Jordan, in September 1997. Yassin was killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in a targeted assassination on 22 March 2004. His successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, was killed in a similar manner one month later, on 14 April 2004.Its charter commits Hamas to the destruction of Israel and to raising the "banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." By implication, then, Hamas is opposed not only to Israel but also to Palestinian secular nationalist forces, namely the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Hamas's dual goal was to undermine the peace process and to replace Fatah as the leadership of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While it used terrorism to achieve the former goal, Hamas worked to build up its own stature among the Palestinian people through the creation of a sophisticated network of mosques, schools, hospitals, and other social welfare agencies that provided free or subsidized services to the poorest segments of Palestinian society that were chronically underserviced by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas's efforts in this area—as well as its reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah senior officials accused of corruption—helped to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections held on 5 January 2006.The first recorded Hamas terrorist suicide bombing against Israel took place in April 1993. It is believed to be responsible for more than 500 deaths in 350 separate terrorist attacks since 1993. Hamas curtailed major terrorist activities in 2005 after agreeing to an intra-Palestinian temporary period of calm (tahadiya) brokered by PA president Mahmoud Abbas in February 2005. Despite Hamas's general adherence to the calm, it maintained its military capabilities and launched Qassam missiles from the Gaza Strip against Israeli targets, both before and after Israel's summer 2005 unilateral disengagement.Hamas surprised most pundits by winning the majority of votes in the PLC elections that occurred on 25 January 2006, taking 74 of 132 seats compared to 45 for the incumbent Fatah. Since the election, the significant increase in the number of Qassam missiles being fired at Sderot and other Israeli population centers were attributed to other Palestinian terror groups in order to give the Hamas-led PA a measure of "deniability." Nevertheless, virtually all international donors cut off direct financial assistance to the PA until Hamas unambiguously agreed to the conditions set by the Middle East Quartet: the end to violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements with Israel, including the Roadmap for Peace.Those hoping that the ascension to political power—and the accountability that comes with it—would force Hamas to moderate its extremist agenda were no doubt disappointed by PA prime minister Ismail Haniya's failure to meet the Quartet's conditions and especially by his government's management of the crisis ensuing from the attack by Hamas activists on the IDF post at Kerem Shalom on 25 June 2006 in which several Israeli soldiers were killed and another, Gilad Shalit, was taken hostage.Speculation that the terrorist operation was ordered by Hamas's political head Mashaal in Damascus without Haniya's prior knowledge, combined with Haniya's refusal to take steps either to rein in those responsible for the attack or assist in the search for the kidnapped Israeli soldier, reinforced the Israeli (and international) image of Hamas as a terrorist organization operating in irresponsible ways contrary to the long-term national interests of the Palestinian people.Israel rejected the results of the 8 February 2007 Saudi-brokered agreement that ostensibly brought the two rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, into a Palestinian unity government. From Israel's perspective, the fundamental question of Hamas's refusal to commit to ending anti-Israel terrorism or recognizing—unconditionally— Israel's right to exist in peace had not been addressed in the agreement. Israel considered Hamas's military defeat of Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 an internal Palestinian issue.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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