- Islamic terrorist group founded in 1987
- Received funding from Saddam Hussein
- Receives funding from Iran
- Responsible for many suicide bombings and terrorist acts against Israeli targets
- Hamas in Its Own Words
See also: The World of Hamas Muslim Brotherhood
Ahmed Yassin Khaled Mash'al Ismail Haniya
Abdel Aziz Rantisi Jihad Islamo-Fascism
HAMAS (an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamat al-Islamiyya, which is Arabic for "Islamic Resistance Movement") is an Islamic fundamentalist group founded on December 14, 1987 by Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, Hamas describes itself as "one of the wings of the Muslim Brother[hood]." As a single Arabic word rather than an acronym, "Hamas" means "zeal." The organization's avowed purpose is "liberating Palestine" from its Jewish "oppressors," whose very presence in the Middle East Hamas considers an affront to Muslims' rightful sovereignty over the region. Hamas is best known for using violent methods -- including suicide bombings against Israeli military and civilian targets -- as part of its long-term strategy to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic Palestinian state. The U.S. State Department, Canada, Japan, Israel, and the entire European Union have named Hamas as an Islamic terrorist organization.
With tens of thousands of loyal supporters, Hamas' strength is concentrated principally in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. The group's leadership is dispersed throughout these same areas, with a few senior leaders residing also in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf States.
Over the years, Hamas' funding has derived from a variety of sources. Today it is supported primarily by donations from Iran, Arab governments such as that of Syria, Palestinian expatriates, private benefactors in Arab nations, Islamic fascist groups, and Muslim "charities" from around the world such as the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. (It is estimated that the "charities" account for about half of all Hamas funding today.) Some clandestine fundraising takes place in Western Europe and North America as well. When the United Nations Oil-For-Food program was in effect, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $21 billion from its coffers and sent some of it directly to Hamas.
Describing Hamas' political and social agendas, Israel scholar Steven Plaut writes: "Hamas and al-Qaeda are basically two sides of the same jihad. They have squabbled rhetorically on occasion ... but ... Hamas 'schools' and other institutions routinely distribute the harangues of [Osama] bin-Laden and other al-Qaeda materials. Hamas rallies feature posters of bin Laden and of Chechen terror leaders." Dr. Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center elaborates:
"Hamas has held secret summits with Al Qaeda operatives in locales as distant as India, and even sent a select few members to train in bin Laden’s Afghan camps. For what it’s worth, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed in 2007 that: 'It is Hamas that is shielding Al Qaeda, and through its bloody conduct, Hamas has become very close to Al Qaeda [in Gaza].'"
Hamas also has a close working relationship with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror organization that serves as one of Hamas' major suppliers of weaponry.
The Hamas Charter, written in 1987, puts forth "The Slogan of the Hamas," which closely resembles the Muslim Brotherhood's credo and reads as follows: "Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur'an its Constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief." In addition, the Hamas Charter:
- says that jihad, or holy war, "becomes an individual duty binding on every Muslim man and woman"
- explicitly abjures negotiated settlements as mechanisms for peaceful coexistence: "There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game."
- mandates that jihad be directed explicitly against the reviled Jews: "The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone. They make war against people's livelihood, plunder their moneys and threaten their honor."
- calls for the fulfillment of the Qur'anic scripture which reads: "The prophet [Mohammad] said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!"
For additional significant excerpts from the Hamas Charter, click here.
To view the Charter in its entirety, click here.
In 1992 Hamas formed its military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, named in honor of the late Sheikh who was the forefather of modern Arab resistance until his death in 1935.
In December 1992, Israeli forces responded to Palestinian atrocities by arresting more than 1,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and deporting 415 of them into Lebanon. Among those expelled were two co-founders of Hamas (including Ismail Haniya) and several of the organization's top military commanders.
In response to these expulsions, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 799 which “strongly” condemned the deportation of “hundreds of Palestinian civilians” and expressed “its firm opposition to any such deportation by Israel.” The Security Council further demanded that Israel “ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied territories of all those deported.” American and European officials likewise pressured Israel to abide by the UN directives. Bill Clinton, for one, said that while he understood Israeli concerns about Hamas, he was opposed to the Jewish state actually deporting the terrorists.
The media, too, helped turn the plight of the expelled Hamas terrorists into the leading human-rights issue of the day. For example, in a story headlined “Deporting the Hope for Peace,” Newsweek sympathetically reported that the deportees were “shivering in the cold.” The New York Times described the hillside upon which they were camped out, as “desolate.” The Christian Science Monitor said the deportees were huddling “under heavy rain.” And the Associated Press, which described Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, the future leader of Hamas, only as a Gaza physician, provided detailed coverage of deportees who were suffering from such ailments as diarrhea. Eventually, in response to public presuures such as these, Israel agreed to permit the terrorists to return.
The first Hamas suicide bombing on record took place on April 26, 1993, when Saher al-tamam attacked two Israeli buses in Mehola, injuring several soldiers who were there on leave. However, this mode of attack did not become the organization's “official policy” until 1994, when Hamas’ Yahya Ayyash—nicknamed ”The Engineer”— succeeded in perfecting the design for the suicide explosive belt. During the course of the next 13 years, Hamas terrorists would kill over 500 people in more than 350 separate attacks.
In October 1997, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the co-founder and spiritual head of Hamas, was released from an Israeli prison and returned to Gaza where he declared that the Jewish state must "disappear from the map." "We have an aim and an enemy," he added, "and we shall continue our jihad against the enemy. A nation without a jihad is a nation without a purpose."
When Israeli helicopter gun ships used Hellfire missiles to kill Yassin on March 22, 2004, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat eulogized him and declared three days of mourning for his people.
Upon Yassin's death, his leadership role with Hamas was immediately filled by the group's co-founder, Abdel Aziz al Rantisi, a 54-year-old pediatrician who himself had escaped an Israeli assassination attempt in June 2003. Immediately upon taking control of Hamas, Rantisi threatened retaliatory attacks against both Israel and the United States, though he later said that Hamas would target only Israel. On April 17, 2004, an Israeli army helicopter launched a missile strike on Rantisi's car, killing him.
That same month, Yasser Arafat told the German magazine Focus that he was prepared to include Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a new leadership structure to operate in parallel with the Palestinian Authority (PA). "Forming a unified Palestinian leadership does not contradict the Palestinian Authority," Fatah Central Committee member Hani al-Hassan told the Fatah-connected newspaper Al-Ayyam, "as it is an internal Palestinian factional issue." "We think that all political movements should take part in the political decision-making process," agreed senior Hamas figure Sheikh Said Siam. But this alleged diversity of political viewpoints was illusory. On January 3, 2003, PLO political chief Farouq Al-Qaddoumi candidly acknowledged that Fatah, "strategically," was "never different from Hamas."
Hamas boycotted the PA's presidential elections of January 2005 but made a strong showing in the municipal elections, especially in Gaza, where it won 77 out of 118 seats in 10 council races.
In March 2005, FBI director Robert Mueller stated that "[o]f all the Palestinian groups, Hamas has the largest presence in the United States with a strong infrastructure … [and] is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the United States." Seven months later an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York affirmed Mueller's assertions, stating: "We have information [that] Hamas agents have been on U.S. soil the past few years and that the group may currently have up to 100 agents operating inside America." And according to terrorism expert Steven Emerson:
"Hamas has an extensive infrastructure in the U.S. mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human rights front groups. … [I]t has the capability of carrying out attacks in America if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations."
In July 2005, Mahmoud al-Zahar, the most senior Hamas member in Gaza, stated that his organization would "definitely not" be prepared for long-term coexistence with Israel, even if the Jewish state were to agree to return to the borders it had in 1967 -- i.e., before Israel had repelled the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and taken control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "It [coexistence] can be a temporary solution, for a maximum of 5 to 10 years," said al-Zahar. "But in the end Palestine must return to become Muslim, and in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the earth."
In August 2005 al-Zahar said the following as Israel, in an effort to foster peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbors, prepared to unilaterally withdraw all its troops and civilian settlers from the Gaza Strip:
- “We will enter the settlements and sully the dignity of Israel with our feet. We will stand on the ruins of the Israeli settlements and tell our people we have prevailed.”
- “We do not and will not recognize a state called Israel. Israel has no right to any inch of Palestinian land. This is an important issue. Our position stems from our religious convictions. This is a holy land. It is not the property of the Palestinians or the Arabs. This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world.”
- “Let Israel die.”
Also in August 2005, the founders and political leaders of Hamas joined forces to publicly announce that their organization's attacks against Israeli targets would continue even after the Jewish state's impending withdrawal from Gaza. Senior Hamas member Ismail Haniyeh characterized Israel's action as a "retreat" that was "a result of resistance and our people's sacrifice." Promising more violence, he declared, "Hamas confirms its adherence to resistance as a strategic option until the occupation retreats from our lands and holy places" -- i.e., until Israel ceases to exist.
When Israel proceeded to actually withdraw from Gaza in September 2005, Hamas heralded the move by defiantly blustering that its “Zionist enemy” had suffered a humiliating “defeat,” and announcing its intent to continue pursuing Israel's destruction.
For its perceived role in driving Israel out of Gaza, Hamas gained immense popularity and political clout in the region. In January 2006, the terror group participated for the first time in the PA's political elections and won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats, effectively taking control of the Palestinian government. Formally assuming power on March 29, 2006, the new 24-member Hamas Cabinet included 14 ministers who had previously served time in Israeli prisons.
Among "the first things Hamas did after taking over Gaza," writes Steven Plaut, "was to launch a campaign of unbridled kleptocracy, stealing funds and commodities shipped to the Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid (including that sent by other Arab countries) sent via the UN institutions operating there. A Qatari newspaper claims the theft amounts to billions of dollars."
The newly installed Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, pledged to cooperate with PA president Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor and the head of the defeated Fatah party which still controlled most of the PA's security apparatus. At a Gaza news conference, Haniyeh pledged that his relations with Abbas would emphasize the "cooperation and harmony" which could result from confronting "Israeli aggression against the people." But before long, Hamas and Fatah were embroiled in a contentious political rivalry that escalated into violent street clashes throughout Gaza.
While this internal conflict was going on inside Gaza, Hamas terrorists also had their sights set on on their hated neighbor to the north, Israel. Since 2001, they had fired thousands of deadly rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli towns and cities, most notably Sderot, located just three miles from the Palestinian border. On June 11, 2006, Hamas spokemsan Abu Oviyada candidly declared, “We have decided to turn Sderot into a ghost town and we will not stop the rocket fire until the residents leave.”
In addition to the rocket attacks, in the post-2006-election era Hamas terrorists and their fellow Gazans also targeted Israelis via car bombs, suicide bombings, sniper attacks, stabbings, stonings, open gunfire in crowded places, the development of chemical weapons, and the smuggling of TNT and mine components into Israel.
In June 2006, Hamas released a video wherein one of its leading operatives, Yasser Ghalban, predicted the demise of the West:
"We will rule the nations, by Allah's will, the U.S.A. will be conquered, Israel will be conquered, Rome and Britain will be conquered … The Jihad for Allah ... is the way of Truth and the way for salvation and the way which will lead us to crush the Jews and expel them from our country, Palestine. Just as the Jews ran from Gaza, the Americans will run from Iraq and Afghanistan and the Russians will run from Chechnya, and the Indian will run from Kashmir, and our children will be released from Guantanamo. The prisoners will be released by Allah's will, not by peaceful means and not by agreements, but they will be released by the sword, they will be released by the gun."
On June 28, 2006, Israeli troops and tanks entered the southern Gaza Strip in an incursion intended to force the release of an Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped from an army outpost three days earlier by Palestinian militants.
On July 12, 2006, Lebanon-based Hezbollah decisively opened a second front in the Arab war against Israel when it conducted a surprise raid on a border post in northern Israel, taking two IDF soldiers captive and wounding eleven others. The abductions, which Israel called an act of war, prompted an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon, to which Hezbollah responded by firing, over the next month, more than 4,000 rockets across the Lebanese border and into Israeli cities.
“It's not coincidental that we had these two attacks and they're pretty much coordinated -- in the south with Hamas and with Hizballah [Hezbollah] in the north,” said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, noting that both groups are supported by Tehran and Damascus.
Many of the rockets that Hamas (and Hezbollah) fired into Israel were launched from civilian areas, making it impossible for Israel to retaliate without causing civilian casualties; the terror groups then exploited those casualties for propaganda purposes. This has been standard procedure for both Hamas and Hezbollah in every military conflict they have ever had with Israel. In many cases, these organizations deliberately plant civilians, including children and the elderly, in locations likely to be targeted by the Israeli military -- so as to manufacture atrocities. (Hamas’ willingness and even eagerness to use such "human shields" was articulated in 2008 by its interior minister, Fathi Hamad: “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’”)
Both Hamas and Hezbollah said that they would release their Israeli captives only in exchange for thousands of their own members who were incarcerated in Israeli prisons at that time. Israel replied that it would not engage in any prisoner exchanges, and that it would cease its bombardment of terrorist strongholds only if Hamas and Hezbollah agreed to suspend all rocket attacks into Israel and unconditionally released the Israeli soldiers.
In August 2006, after a month of combat, Israel and Hezbollah agreed to a cease-fire under the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for "the immediate cessation by Hezbullah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." Israel's battle against Hamas, meanwhile, had no formal ending but simply de-escalated. Before long, Hamas and other Gazan terrorists resumed their practice of firing rockets aimlessly, and with impunity, into southern Israel.
In November 2006, Hamas announced that it was "very satisfied" with reports that Israeli residents of communities near the Gaza Strip -- most notably Sderot -- were prepared to relocate because of the relentless barrage of rocket attacks that Hamas was aiming at their villages on a daily basis. "The importance of what is happening in Sderot proves to the Palestinians, especially those who say rockets bring no results, that rocket attacks do bring big benefits," said Abu Abdullah, a key leader of Hamas' military wing (the Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades). "We promise we will keep hitting them because this process [of launching rockets at Jewish communities] is starting to bring results. We are working to improve our rockets to hit further and cause more Jews to evacuate." Another Hamas spokesman, Abu Abaida, said: "There are no limits on our rocket attacks and we will prove that in coming days. We advise residents of Sderot to evacuate.... We keep working on [the rockets] to improve deadliness, force and distance."
As Hamas and Fatah continued to vie for control over Gaza in early 2007, a number of Arab nations, headed by Saudi Arabia, led mediation efforts that resulted in Hamas and Fatah agreeing to share power in a Palestinian "unity government." Under this arrangement, Ismail Haniyeh kept his position as prime minister and Hamas retained majority control of the cabinet. The unity government was sworn in on March 17, 2007.
In a March 25, 2007 speech, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar gave voice to his organization's ultimate goal of helping Islam gain dominion over the entire planet:
"We have two important foundations [promising that Islam will eventually dominate the earth]: one is Koranic and the other is prophetic. The Koranic: the divine promise made in the Al-Israa Sura is that we will liberate the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque ... And the prophetic foundation is the message of the prophet Muhammad, that Islam will enter every house and will spread over the entire world."
In April 2007, Hamas military leader Abu Abdullah emphasized his group's unwavering commitment to destroying the state of Israel: "We don't recognize Israel's right to exist. We will never allow Jews to remain in our lands. ... We have thousands of rockets ready to be shot.” Further, Abdullah warned that if Israel were to raid Gaza in retaliation for its rocket attacks, "the Zionists will be entering hell. We are preparing a major cemetery for them. We will step up attacks, including dispatching suicide bombers to Tel Aviv." Moreover, he revealed that Hamas had used a recent cease-fire period as an opportunity to stockpile weaponry and to train for future attacks against Israel.
After his organization had launched some 150 missiles against Israel during one particular week in mid-May 2007, Hamas official Nizhar Riyah declared that “Hamas is determined to wipe Israel off the map and replace it with the state of Palestine.” He vowed to persevere “until the last Jew is expelled” from "all of Palestine."
Also in mid-May 2007, simmering hostilities between Fatah and Hamas resurfaced. The following month, these clashes escalated into full-blown violence that lasted for six days. Fatah’s forces, trained and armed by the United States and other Western nations, were routed. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Hamas' violence was indiscriminate and demonstrated a willful disregard for the conventions of war. For example, Hamas fighters pushed a number of Fatah members from the roofs of tall buildings; killed people who were already badly injured; shot enemies at point-blank range to ensure permanent disabilities; and attacked private homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, ambulances, and medical crews.
By the time the fighting was over, Hamas had seized almost all of Fatah’s major bases in the Gaza Strip. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas announced on June 14 that he was dismissing his Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency, thereby marking the end of the unity government that Hamas and Fatah had formed earlier that year. Hamas was now firmly in control of the region.
In the more populous West Bank, by contrast, Fatah's position remained relatively secure; Hamas had been unable to establish its authority there because of Israel’s continued military presence.
In Gaza, Hamas governed through a combination of violence, authoritarianism, and Islamism. Some 1,000 people, almost all members of Fatah and the PA, were illegally arrested in the first months of Hamas rule by the so-called Executive Force, a newly formed Hamas police organization whose leader actually admitted to the use of torture and violence against his political enemies. According to one human-rights report, the nascent Hamas government also attacked members of the media and peaceful demonstrators who questioned its policies in any way. By November 2007, the British press reported that “only believers feel safe” in Gaza, and that “un-Islamic” dress sometimes resulted in beatings.
Another hallmark of Hamas' rule was its gross mistreatment of the minority Christian community, mostly Greek Orthodox, which had lived in relative peace for centuries amid Gaza’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population. By one count, more than 50 attacks against such Christians took place in the first few months following the Hamas coup of June 2007.
In mid-September 2007, Israel designated Hamas-ruled Gaza as a hostile political entity and authorized a series of economic sanctions against the region, including restrictions on the supply of electricity and fuel, the closure of joint industrial areas, and the shutting down of crossings that connected Israel and the Gaza Strip. Hamas in turn characterized Israel's actions as a "declaration of war."
In the 2007 Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) trial (which looked into evidence of HLF's fundraising on behalf of Hamas), the U.S. government released a list of approximately 300 of HLF's "unindicted co-conspirators" and "joint venturers." Among these were groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hamas, INFOCOM, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the North American Islamic Trust, and the United Association for Studies and Research. The list also included many individuals (some of whom were deceased) affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas. Among these were Omar Ahmad, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Yousef al-Qaradawi, Abdallah Azzam, Jamal Badawi, Mohammad Jaghlit, Mousa Abu Marzook, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Ahmed Yassin.
During a television program that aired on Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV on February 28, 2008, Hamas cleric Wael Al-Zarad stated that the Muslims' desire to slaughter Jews "will only subside with their [the Jews] annihilation, Allah willing."
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” (OCL), a military operation targeting Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza. Specifically, the operation was a response to the fact that between January 2001 and December 2008, Hamas and its affiliated terrorists in Gaza had fired some 8,165 rockets and mortars at civilian communities in southern Israel -- with no end in sight.
On January 18, 2009 -- after three weeks of combat -- Hamas accepted the terms of a ceasefire that Israel had unilaterally declared the day before.
In May 2011, Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation pact aimed at ending their bitter four-year rift. The deal called for the formation of an interim government to run both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with parliamentary and presidential elections to follow within a year.
In late 2011, Hamas added the phrase "a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – Palestine" to its official name – i.e., "The Islamic Resistance Movement." A senior Hamas source stated that his group was now officially part of the global Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Between January and mid-November of 2012, Hamas terrorists fired more than 700 rockets into southern Israel. Some 120 of those were launched during November 10-14. In response, Israel carried out a precision strike on a car carrying Hamas military chief Ahmad Jabari, mastermind of the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Video of the strike shows it was designed to minimize civilian casualties. After killing Jabari, the Israeli Defense Forces struck 100 terrorist target locations in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas, in turn, declared that Israel's initial strike against Jabari had “opened the gates of hell,” and that its 35,000 fighters would soon be deployed in attacks against the Jews.
On November 15 and 16, 2012, Hamas militants fired two missiles toward Tel Aviv -- the first time Israel's largest city had come under such attack since the 1991 Gulf War. Neither of the missiles hit any population targets.
On November 16, 2012, Hamas launched a missile intended for the Israeli parliament building in Jerusalem -- the first time any structure in that city had been targeted by missiles since 1970. The projectile, however, landed in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, and caused no casualties.
Hamas publishes a biweekly, London-based children’s magazine titled Al-Fateh, which regularly characterizes Jews as “murderers of the prophets”; lauds parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews; and, according to the Middle East Media Research Center, incites youngsters to “jihad and martyrdom and glorification of terrorist operations and of their planners and perpetrators.” Each issue features an installment of “The Story of a Martyr,” presenting the “heroic deeds” of a Muslim who died in a suicide bombing or who was killed before committing such crimes by the Israeli Defense Forces. (Click here to view some examples of the text and illustrations contained in this Hamas production.)
Defenders of Hamas commonly assert that the organization provides valuable social services for the Palestinian people. Steven Plaut addresses this claim:
"Hamas does indeed operate social services, but mainly as a tool in asserting its power and control, and in order to finance its terrorism. The American State Department has traditionally drawn no distinction between Hamas terrorism and its social services: 'As long as Hamas continues to rely on terrorism to achieve its political ends, we should not draw a distinction between its military and humanitarian arms, since funds provided to one can be used to support the other.' Even the normally anti-Israel Human Rights Watch has concluded that Hamas social functions are part and parcel of its terrorist activity."
Hamas' current worldwide leader is Khaled Mash'al, who first became a member of the Hamas Political Bureau in 1996.
Hamas' most significant front group in North America is the Council on American-Islamic Relations.