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The Hamas: An Overview of Palestinian Mujahedin Movement

Jerusalem, Israel, October 10:  Hamas, the Islamic Mujahedin Movement, has been a prominent and influential player in the Middle East for decades. This Palestinian Islamist organization, founded in the late 1980s, has a multifaceted history, comprising political and militant activities.

This Overview provides a comprehensive understanding of Hamas, its origins, leadership, funding, governance, challenges to Israel, and its recent actions.

Origins and Ideology:

Hamas emerged in response to the first intifada (Palestinian uprising) against alleged Israeli occupation. Founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas initially served as the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. Its core ideology calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in historic Palestine.

Over time, Hamas has adjusted its rhetoric, including accepting the idea of an interim Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders.

Leadership Structure:

Hamas has a complex leadership structure, including political and military figures. Ismail Haniyeh currently leads the political wing, while Yahya Sinwar oversees day-to-day affairs in Gaza. Senior leaders often operate from abroad, primarily in Qatar and Turkey.

The military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is led by figures like Marwan Issa and Mohammed Deif.

Sources of Funding:

Hamas faces financial challenges due to its designation as a terrorist organization by numerous countries.

Historically, it relied on donations from Palestinian expatriates and private donors in the Persian Gulf. Today, Iran is a significant benefactor, providing funds, weapons, and training. Turkey has also offered political support, and some funding has come through Islamic charities.

Governance in Gaza:

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has governed the region, establishing its institutions, including a judiciary. However, its governance has been criticized for repressive measures, such as restrictions on dress and freedom of expression.

The watchdog group Freedom House highlighted concerns about transparency and accountability in Hamas-controlled governance.

Challenges to Israel:

Hamas has historically challenged Israel through a range of activities, including rocket attacks, border breaches, and incursions into Israeli territory. The deadliest recent conflict occurred in 2021 when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, leading to a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Egypt.

Public Opinion and Political Dynamics:

The political division between the West Bank and Gaza remains unpopular among Palestinians. Recent polls suggest a significant portion of Palestinians in both regions would vote for Hamas over the Palestinian Authority. Internal Palestinian politics and the role of external actors, including Iran and Turkey, continue to shape Hamas’s actions.

Ongoing 2023 Offensive:

Hamas’s recent offensive, “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” marked a significant departure from previous actions. Launched on the Jewish Sabbath, it involved thousands of rockets, breaches of the Gaza border, and infiltrations into Israeli towns, causing significant casualties. The attack, unprecedented in strategy and scale, caught Israel and international observers by surprise.

Israeli Response and Potential Escalation:

In response, Israel declared war on Hamas, launching intense airstrikes on Gaza and ground operations to remove militants from Israeli territory. Concerns exist regarding potential escalation and the wider regional impact, including the risk of a broader conflict involving Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hamas’s influence and actions continue to impact the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the broader Middle East region. Its evolution from a grassroots movement to a significant political and military player underscores the complexity of the ongoing conflict.

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