The Islamic Resistance Movement, commonly known as Hamas, is a Palestinian Islamic
fundamentalist movement and terrorist organization whose primary goal is the establishment of an Islamic
state in place of Israel. The word ‘Hamas’ is an acronym for Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia, the
organization’s full Arabic name. The Arabic word hamas literally translated means ‘zeal’ or ‘enthusiasm,’
although the group’s membership interprets it to mean ‘courage and bravery.’ The Islamic Resistance
Movement is currently the dominant and most active terrorist organization operating in Israel, the West
Bank, and Gaza Strip.
Hamas became active in the Arab-Israeli conflict around 1987, during the early stages of the
intifada (the Palestinian uprising). The movement’s founder is Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin, a religious
leader and high ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He formed Hamas in order to exercise a
more active anti-Israeli role and compete with other Palestinian groups for leadership of the uprising.
Sheikh Yassin established Hamas’ extensive organizational system to direct the political and intifada-
related work of the movement. The Muslim Brotherhood of Gaza recruited Hamas’ original membership
through its network of social and charity institutions in Gaza and the West Bank.
While Hamas identifies itself as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, there are differences
between the two organizations. Both movements call for the creation of a pan-Islamic state founded on
shari’a (Islamic Law). The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, promotes a strategy of first
establishing a pan-Islamic state, then launching jihad (holy war) against Israel. Hamas believes that Israel
must be destroyed first and an Islamic Palestinian state created in its place. Palestine will then serve as the
center of Arab and Muslim unity, coalescing the Middle East into a single Islamic state.
In August 1988, Hamas published its basic ideology in “The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the
Islamic Resistance Movement,” commonly referred to as the Covenant of Hamas. It is a broad manifesto,
mixing Koranic quotations and interpretations of Arab history with Hamas’ doctrine, exhortations for
obedience to Islamic law, condemnations of the West, and calls for jihad against Israel. The movement’s
central goal is the creation of an Islamic state in all of Palestine, “from the Mediterranean Sea to the banks
of the Jordan River.” Hamas considers itself the “spearhead and the vanguard of the circle of struggle
against World Zionism” and believes it is the religious duty of all Muslims to support its movement.
Hamas rejects any peace process or political solution that includes the forfeiture of any part of Palestine or
the recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas began operations in the occupied territories at the beginning of the intifada and played a
major part in the escalation of the uprising. Hamas acted independently, refusing to subordinate itself to
the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and enjoyed wide support of younger
Palestinians. Hamas incited and participated in disturbances and demonstrations; published and distributed
leaflets; and organized boycotts and strikes. Many of the intifada’s most violent clashes were between the
Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas’ shock troops, Al-Suad Al-Ramaya (the Throwing Arm). Hamas
hit squads, Majmouath Jihad u-Dawa (Holy War and Sermonizing Group), enforced Hamas’ directives
through terror tactics, including the murder of over forty Palestinians for “collaborating with Israel.”
In 1989, Hamas operatives began terrorist attacks aimed at Israeli targets, beginning with the
kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Since then, Hamas has continued its terrorist
attacks against both Palestinians and Israelis using a combination of assassination, ambushes, hostage
taking, car bombs, suicide bombers, and drive-by shootings. When the 1991 Madrid peace talks began,
Hamas’ attacks were intended to stop the Arab-Israeli peace process. Following the joint PLO-Israeli
Declaration of Principles in 1993 and the implementation of the Oslo Peace Accords, Hamas focused its
operations on forcing Israel to abandon the entire the West Bank. In all, Hamas terrorist attacks since 1993
have killed over 200 Israelis.
The Israeli government outlawed Hamas in 1989. Israel has since employed negotiation,
counterattacks, assassination, arrests, and deportation in continuing attempts to control or disable the
movement. Despite these measures, Hamas continues to be the leading perpetrator of terrorist acts against
Israel.
Hamas is a cellular organization with some of its elements working openly and others operating
clandestinely. Hamas divided Gaza and the West Bank into regions,