Hamas, a radical Islamic organization that has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, was registered in Israel as a social service agency called the Islamic Association by its leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1978. It worked to gain inroads with the people via its network of schools and hospitals, while promoting a fundamentalist Islamic perspective.

Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin


Functioning underground, it had a number of wings, including its military wing, Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam. In reality these wings cannot be separated.

Its first goal is the destruction of Israel via Jihad and the institution of Islamic law (sharia); to that end it seeks the Islamization and militarization of Palestinian society.  Long-term it seeks a Caliphate -- world Islamic rule, and thus declares that "so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences" contradict its principles. Its covenant -- which doesn't even mention a Palestinian state as a goal -- may be found at:


The movement began to more openly espouse violence and militancy at the time of the first Intifada in 1987 and changed its name to the Islamic Resistance Movement. In gained strength particularly in Gaza, and among the Palestinian Arab refugees.

Because of its terrorist activity, Hamas was outlawed by Israel in 1989; it is also on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Hamas terrorist


In the early 1990s, Hamas became a major perpetrator of terrorist activities. It has inflicted the most Israeli casualties because its attacks are generally well planned and executed.

Bus in Israel after suicide bombing


By the mid 1990s, Hamas military operational headquarters were in Damascus. Syria has served as a safe haven for training of new operatives, and as a conduit for transfer of funds and weapons but with the changing situation there is now talk about moving headquarters to Gaza. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been major funders.

Sheikh Yassin was assassinated by Israel in 2004, and next in command, Abdul Aziz Rantisi shortly thereafter. Khalid Masha'al, located in Damascus, Syria, and strongly under the influence of Iran, is the head of Hamas; Moussa Abu Marzouk is his deputy; Mahmoud Zahar, is the most powerful Hamas leader in Gaza.

Khalid Masha'al, head of Hamas in Damascus, with strong Iranian connections


Mahmoud Zahar, former PA foreign minister, in Gaza



The links between Hamas and the PA existed from the time of the PA's establishment.  Less than a year after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Jibril Rajoub, then head of PA Preventive Security in the West Bank, said, "We sanctify the weapons found in the possession of the national factions...If there are those who o ppose the agreement with Israel, the gates are pen to them to intensify the armed struggle."

And not long after, PA spokesman Nabil Sh'ath said, "For us we have a political relationship with Hamas, a brotherly relationship."

In 1995, a formal pact was established between the PA and Hamas, that asserted the unity of the Palestinian people, sanctioned continuing Hamas terrorist attacks (executed outside of areas under direct PA control), committed the PA to halting security measures against Hamas.

The link was made more overt by Mahmoud Abbas, after he became President of the PA in January 2005. Declining to take on terrorist entities, he called for unity, and for terrorist groups -- prime among them Hamas -- to join with the PA.

Following this, Hamas made the decision to enter the political fray, and started to run candidates for elections, first on the municipal level and then in the elections for the PA Legislative Council, January 25, 2006. With their stunning victory, there was no longer a way to separate Hamas from the Palestinian Authority, as Hamas had gained control of the majority of seats in the parliament as well as the government (cabinet).

Ismail Haniyeh, located in Gaza, headed the list for elections and was made the PA prime minister; he was close to Hamas founder, Sheikh Yassin. Mahmoud Zahar was appointed foreign minister.

Ismail Haniyeh, in Gaza, first on the victorious Hamas list in 2006 and for a time PA Prime Minister



The relationship between Fatah and Hamas following the elections was a rocky one, and increasingly in the latter months of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, there was violence -- shootings, kidnappings, etc. 

In February 2007, Fatah and Hamas arrived at an agreement for a unity government, called the Mecca Accord because it was arrived at after negotiations in Mecca, under the sponsorship of Saudi Arabia.

The declared good will of the unity government dissipated very quickly, however, and violence resumed and grew in intensity.


In June 2007, Hamas executed a military coup in the Gaza Strip.  Members of Fatah were killed and Fatah headquarters were overtaken.  Fatah fled, and Hamas assumed control of Gaza.

There has been an international attempt to isolate Hamas, as separate from Fatah, which is centered in Judea and Samaria.  Hamas maintains that it is legally elected and still part of the PA -- that Abbas has no right to supercede them, as he has attempted to do.


In Gaza, Hamas has established an organized army of some 10,000 to 12,000 trained troops, and in the weeks following the takeover brought in from Egypt 20,000 tons of explosives.  They are in possession, as well, of a variety of sophisticated weapons and undergroud bunkers for storing them.