Hamas, whose name derives from the Arabic acronym of Harakat-al- Muqawama al-Islamia (‘courage and bravery’), was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifadah, against Israeli occupation.
Originally created from Muslim Brotherhood cells, Hamas continues to receive their support, especially from the Egyptian branch. Initially, the Israeli government supported the formation of the Sunni Islamic organisation, deeming it healthy competition to the secular Palestinian political groups. Now it thinks otherwise.
Today, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance group which is the largest of its kind, is regarded by Israel, the USA and the EU as a terrorist organisation.
Its supporters, on the other hand, see Hamas as a legitimate force protecting them from military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Regarding the whole of historic Palestine as Islamic land, Hamas views the state of Israel as an occupier, though a 10-year ‘truce’ has been offered if Israel withdraws to the lines held before the war of 1967. The initial martyrdom operations were seen by many Palestinians as a way to avenge their losses, while also acting as a means to stop Israel building settlements in the West Bank.
The specific aims of Hamas are varied, but the most publicised is that of removing Israeli forces from occupied territories through militant attacks on Israeli troops and civilians. Ultimately, this is the frontline for establishing the long sought after Islamic Palestinian State. This has been ongoing since 1948 and would encompass Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
A lesser reported aim is the improvement of social constructs such as education, medical establishments and religious institutions. These social provisions ensured support from ordinary Palestinians, including the religiously orientated and refugees living in Gaza, the main stronghold of Hamas.
Endorsements are also thought to come from other terrorist organisations around the world especially those who have links based on Islam and Jihad.
After winning the Palestinian Authority legislative elections in the occupied territories in January 2006, Hamas’ overwhelming victory showed the support they had acquired against what was increasingly seen as a corrupt and inefficient government. It also reflected the operational presence Hamas has in what is believed to be every city in Palestine territory.
Since the 2005 ceasefire and the 2006 elections, violent anti-Israeli attacks are thought to have decreased. Yet they still continue, and no attempts are made to avoid injuring civilians or foreign tourists.
Hamas remains devoted to its promise that, whilst Israeli troops occupy Palestinian territory, it will never agree to a permanent ceasefire.