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The Hamas: Overview of the Organization Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 6th, 2022

Introduction

Hamas is an acronym of Harakat al-Muqawamat al-Islamiyyah which also meant Islamic Movement. It is a socio-political organization found in Islamic Palestine and includes a paramilitary unit known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. This organization has been the authoritative power of Gaza, a location of Palestinian Territories (Nasrawi, p. 30).

Hamas’ origins can be officially traced back to the year 1987 when it was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Mohammad Taha and Abdel Aziz al Rantissi who were from an organization called The Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt. This was after the First Intifada which was precipitated by the Arab world’s intense uprising against Israel which was assumed to be the ruler of Palestine. Israel had started occupying Palestine after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. The Hamas was founded between the years 1967 to 1987 and during this period there was a Social Institution Building whereby there was a marked increase in the number of mosques from 200 to 600 in Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt played a very important role because Hamas was established as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood (Abuza, p. 456).

The main objective of Hamas was to gain direct control of the Intifada, and most of all gain an upper hand on the Palestinian demonstrations and align it with the fundamentalism of the Islam movement. In reality, it is one among the many Palestinian resistance groups; for example the PLO that was formed in order to gain control of the Palestinian movement as well as endorse Islamic view (Hider, p. 100).

Hamas was founded between 1967 and 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al Rantisi and Mohammed Taha and they came from an organization named Muslim Brotherhood which originated from Egypt. There was another military branch of Hamas named the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades that was established in 1992 and mostly conducted numerous attacks against the Israeli occupation of the Palestine territory (Fighel, p. 121).

The Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004 declared that Hamas would restore the Palestinian historical rights by ending the armed resistance but in exchange for a Palestinian territory in the Gaza strip and the West Bank as well as east Jerusalem. In January 2004, the Hamas most senior official, Abdel Aziz-al Rantisi presented ‘hudna’ (10-year ceasefire) in return for the Palestinian establishment and a complete pull out of the Israeli Army from the regions captured in 1967. Israel totally rejected this statement by Abdel Aziz and termed it hypocritical. Abdel Aziz and his counterparts were later killed by the Israeli airstrikes (Wolfson, p. 72).

In August 2004, a ceasefire was observed in Be’er Sheva, southern Israeli town where fifteen people succumbed to death and close to 130 were wounded. Nonetheless, in 2005 a group closely linked to Hamas claimed six people on several attacks against the Israelis on West Bank (Nasrawi, p. 45).

Although Hamas did not participate in the 2005 presidential elections, it took part in the municipal elections and managed to take control of the Rafah and Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip as well a territory in the West bank called Qalqilyah. Later in 2006, Hamas achieved majority seats in the Palestinian legislative election, the election was termed as free and fair by expert observers. The ruling party Fatah was defeated because it was alleged to be corrupt and ineffective (Sarraj, p. 96).

After the Hamas victory of the parliamentary elections, it restated that it was ending its suicidal attacks against the Israelis and it was offering a ten-year truce in exchange with complete Israeli military withdrawal on its territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as well as the Gaza Strip. A road map for peace was established in 2003 and it anticipated a Palestinian establishment by 2005. But this was never to be. Mashal added that he was not stopping any Palestinian groups or any armed operations against the Israelis. This triggered the U.S. and other international governments to impose sanctions on the Palestinian states. In response to this, Hassan al-Safi, a most senior Hamas leader threatened a new Intifada against all those who were against their voices (Nasraw, p. 49).

Immediately after Hamas formed the cabinet, there were increased tensions between the Hamas and the Fatah that led to a number of demonstrations and violence in parts of the Gaza Strip. This led the Hamas-led government to sign a peace deal that involved forming a unity government with Fatah to end the factional warfare that ended up killing close to 200 Palestinians (Sarraj, p. 99).

Conflicts between Hamas and Israel erupted on 9th June 2006 where Israeli artillery operation killed eight Palestinian civilians. Israel later denied their involvement in the attack. Hamas in response to this launched rocket attacks into Israel from Qassam a region on the Gaza Strip (Gary, p. 90).

Renewed fighting erupted in June 2007 between Hamas and Fatah. Thereafter, Hamas controlled the Gaza Strip and Fatah took over the West Bank. The Hamas-led government was later dismissed as a militia group and was outlawed by President Mahmoud Abbas (Wolfson, p. 74).

Main Body

Hamas is mainly funded by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States who term themselves as charity organizations of Islam. It is estimated that Hamas has an annual budget of $70 million with close to $50 million from charitable organizations but with $12 million directly supplied by the Gulf States and an additional $3 million from Iran (Levitt, p. 323).

According to Hamas, funds for political or any other activities are different from the funds intended for the military use. Iran is the main supplier of military-intended funds amounting to $3 million annually. Saudi Arabia as well as other Gulf States supply funds intended for political, social and other activities (Nasrawi, p. 29).

Mostly Hamas is funded by Iran, Saudi Arabia and other funds come from charitable organizations like charitable trust Holy Land foundation for Relief and Development. Various sources claim Hamas growth is linked to Mossad, a counterbalance to PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) (Nasrawi, p. 25).

When Hamas took control of the government, it received support from the Gulf States primarily Saudi Arabia. Their funding support grew to $70 million. But now they have been outlawed however non-governmental organizations continue to provide financial support (Paz, p. 64).

Hamas also raises some of its funding from as far as Western Europe and North America where it extensively uses propaganda as the means to get support from its sympathizers. According to various intelligence sources from the US, as per 2003, Hamas had an estimated budget of $50 million, with so much of this money coming from well-wishers who believed it to be a charitable entity. Indeed many citizens of Palestine are on the belief that the organization is a charitable organization that builds schools, hospitals and other important infrastructural facilities that the government is incapable of setting up. Thus to them, Hamas is not a terrorist entity that is renown across the globe (Global Security.org).

Therefore most of its funding that emanates from European countries and the US is mainly raised from the populations from Palestine through Dawa activities i.e. charity activities. Because of the lack of adequate accountability facilities within the setup, some of the money finds its way to financing terrorism activities towards Israel while some are directed towards funding the civilian activities. The US government has realized this has undertaken serious measures to ensure that the funding through charity is frustrated thus undermining the whole process (Global Security.org).

The Hamas organization also gets backing from Syria which provides the base from where the Hamas leadership operates from. Thus the political, information and operative aspects of the organization have Syria as its backbone. More particularly the Hamas political office is here and is headed by Khaled Mashal. The Syrian government offers a conducive environment from which the Hamas can operate because it enables the leaders of Hamas to formulate and carry out strategies to make the organization stronger including training some of the Hamas operatives and assisting in the purchasing of arms and ammunition. Apart from Syria Hamas also gets such operation and monetary support from various countries in the Middle East (Global Security.org)

The U.S. terms Hamas as a terrorist organization. On the other hand, Canada terms Hams as a Sunni Muslim terrorist group. The European community lists Hamas as among the territories it will apply restrictions on in order to combat terrorism. According to the Israeli government, Hamas is the group that continues to maintain a terrorist network on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and it is the group that is involved in terrorist attacks against the Israeli territory. Japan also terms Hamas as a terrorist organization and it claimed that in 2005, it had frozen terrorist assets which included those of the Hamas. Australia and the UK list the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas is viewed differently by Egypt and Kuwait but negatively viewed in Lebanon and Turkey. In 1999, Jordan abolished Hamas (Matthew, p. 323).

The federal court in the U.S. found Hamas liable for the murder of Efrat Ungar and Yaron. Hamas was ordered to pay $116 million to Ungar’s families. In 2004, three Palestinians alleged to be Hamas were charged with providing money for terrorist acts in Israel (Gary, p. 89).

Hamas has targeted attacks on Israeli civilians and Israeli forces as well the Fatah rivals. Hamas has been accused of torturing and killing Fatah supporters who it links to providing the sensitive information to the Israeli authorities. In 2003, Hamas confiscated humanitarian supplies to civilians claiming to be destined to Fatah members. Hamas also engaged in human rights violation by throwing to death a presidential guard from a 15-storied building while his legs and arms were tied (Hider, p. 100).

Hamas has adopted guerilla war tactics in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It is claimed that more than 1,300 tons of rockets and other weapons have been smuggled into the Gaza region. This was observed during the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006. It has also been noted that Hamas is using anti-rocket tanks, home-made rockets such as Al-Batar and the IEDs in the Gaza (Graham, p. 120).

Hamas is linked to extrajudicial activities against the rival Fatah groups. Additionally, it is involved in killing Israeli civilians as well as the army forces. Even those linked to providing information to Israeli intelligence have been killed mercilessly (Van Biema, p. 80).

The relation between the U.S. and Hamas is sour. According to the Department of Justice, Hamas has the capability of acting outside the Israeli territory given the extensive operations from fundraising to political support. The group according to the FBI has coordinated terrorist activities targeted on the Israelis and its allies (Nasrawi, p. 46).

In 2005, Hamas declared a ceasefire with Israel however, it was ended with Israeli attacks on the tunnels that were built to smuggle weaponry from Egypt. In 2008, another ceasefire threatened to start but the Israeli government declined to comment on the agreement. Later on November 2008, Israeli air attacks killed six Hamas gunmen. Hamas responded with rocket attacks against the Israelis. In December 2008, there was another operation that was led against the Hamas. In January 2009, Hamas declared a ceasefire in attempt to make Israeli pull out of the Gaza strip (Paz, p. 60).

Hamas is considered one of the most serious threats to the fragile world peace. This was greatly increased especially after 9/11 when the war on terrorism was drastically stepped up across the world. The threat to the US has continued to elicit much concern amongst the security agents who believe that it is a disaster in waiting. Various terrorism experts including other security officials are in admittance that America is facing greater threat especially when taking into consideration that Hamas has some cells on the American soil. These cells have the capacity to launch devastating attacks inside the US. Indeed according to an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York was quoted admitting that Hamas agents had their presence in the US and approximately 100 agents were presently active within the borders of America (Klein). This information is quite threatening given the devastation of 9/11.

This fact was reaffirmed earlier on by none other than the Director of FBI Robert Mueller who was quoted as saying that Hamas’ US network had the capability of perpetrating acts of terrorism in the country. According to the director, the network that exists mainly is in place for the purposes of fundraising. The fundraising is normally done through various methods including the Charity linked programs that have led to the closure of some of the non-governmental organizations that have been suspected to act on behalf of Hamas. Such organization includes the National Holy Land Foundation that was shut down in these regards, with many more still in operation (Klein).

The national Holy Land Foundation was regarded amongst US’s largest Islamic charitable organizations. The establishment was closed with the help of a research carried out by Steve Emerson a Terrorism expert who was on the opinion that Hamas possesses an extensive infrastructural program in the US for the main purposes of fundraising, recruiting new supporters and training the various members, strategizing anti-Israeli operations, mobilizing for political support and using human rights groups as fronts. It is should be noted that even though Hamas does not operate out of Israel, it has the capacity and the wherewithal to make attempt attacks against America (Klein).

The Hamas network in the US is a more difficult challenge to contain because of its covert operations and memberships that exist amongst the American citizenry and includes trained Jihadists with suspected links to the al-Qaeda and some evidence has continued to reveal that indeed Hamas has its presence in the US. For example a man by the name of Ismail Selim Elbarasse considered one of Hamas’ financiers was arrested following the videotaping of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge to bomb it (Klein).

The presence of such operatives has dramatically increased following the increased pressure of the existence of security agents following the 9/11 attack. This has come about because of the renewed emphasis by al-Qaeda to enlist new American jihadist supporters from such groups as Hamas. Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar are some of the high-level members of Hamas that were also arrested in August 2004 and were later charged with among other things money laundering, material support for the Hamas, and racketeering. In 2003 a Canadian immigrant under the name Jamal Aqal who had his roots in Gaza was detained in Israel suspected of being of weapon and explosive training in anticipation of attacks in Canada and New York. He was jailed at his plea of guilty of having a plan to kill various Jewish leaders from America and Canada, including Israeli officials on their way to America (Klein).

From the aforementioned, it is quite clear that Hamas has continued to harbor ill motives towards America because of the involvement of the US in the politics of this part of the world. The Hamas members were greatly aggravated by the American support of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who was calling for an early election in 2006. They believed that Abbas received promises from America of substantial military and political support. They accused the US of initiating the Palestinian civil War (Klein) and wanted to prove to the Americans that they had chosen a wrong policy. It is noteworthy that Hamas had won the January elections and thus was angered by Abbas’ move to call for an early election which they considered as illegitimate (Klein).

The call for a new election elicited so much emotion because it was seen as a mechanization process to dismantle the Hamas-led government. This led to violent clashes and riots between the Fatah Party of Abbas and the Hamas in the Gaza strip. Within 6 days the clashes led to the death of more than 16 Palestinians. Behind the scenes, America was accused of orchestrating the new elections and arming the Fatah militants including training them (Klein).

Conclusion

The Hamas groups and the Israeli forces are likely to continue to fight each other, with heavy losses being realized from both extremes. Much life has been lost leading to one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes. International mediation does not seem to be making any headway because the terrorist groups are now heavily polarized and tightly networked.

Works Cited

  1. Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily): Hamas threatens attacks on US.
  2. Abuza, Zachary. Learning by Doing: Al Qaeda’s Allies in Southeast Asia. Current History, 2004, p. 456
  3. Beyler, Clara. Messengers of Death: Female Suicide Bombers International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism 2003, pp. 45-50.
  4. Fighel, Jonathan. Top Muslim Clerics Endorse Suicide Attacks – A Challenge to the United States? International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism 200,2 pp. 100-123.
  5. Graham Usher: The New Hamas: Between Resistance and Participation 2005, pp. 101-120
  6. Gary C. Gambill.Sponsoring Terrorism: Syria and Hamas 2002, pp. 89-101
  7. Global Security.org: HAMAS Funding.
  8. Hider, James (2007)Transnational and non state armed groups. Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research Harvard University 2008 pp98-102.
  9. Kimhi, Shaul and Even, Shmuel. Who are the Palestinian Suicide Terrorists? Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies 2003, pp. 76-80.
  10. Paz, Reuven. The Saudi Fatwah Against Suicide Terrorism. International Policy Institute for Counter 2001, pp. 58-90.
  11. Sarraj, Eyad. Why We Have Become Suicide Bombers: Understanding Palestinian Terror. Mission Islam 2003, pp. 89-98
  12. Nasrawi, Salak. Hamas Reconciliation Breaks Down.’ Associated Press,1993, pp. 23-45.
  13. Matthew Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Yale University Press. 2006, pp. 323
  14. Matthew A. Levitt Hamas from Cradle to Grave: 2004, p. 216
  15. Khaled Abu Toameh Quotations from Hamas memorandum “This is what we struggle for,” reprinted in Tamimi, Azzam, Hamas, A History from Within, Olive Branch Press, 2007, pp. 265-270.
  16. Van Biema, David. Why the Bombers Keep Coming. Time Atlantic 2001, pp. 78-90.
  17. Wolfson, Adam. Demystify It: How to Defeat Suicide Terrorism National Review Online 2003, pp. 56- 78.
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