Hamas (hämäs´) [Arab., = zeal], Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization that was founded in 1987 during the Intifada; it seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (the former mandate of Palestine). An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas operates mosques, schools, clinics, and social programs but is best known in the West for its military wing, which has carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Israelis. Hamas opposed the 1993 accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which granted Palestinians gradual limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and called for complete Israeli withdrawal from both areas.

After 1993 Hamas's military wing carried out suicide bombings in Israel in an attempt to derail both that agreement and further negotiations. Hamas supporters were prominent among those who challenged the Palestinian Authority (which was dominated by Al Fatah, the main faction of the PLO), and its leaders have been subjected to mass arrests. The organization opposed the 1996 elections held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for the Palestinian Authority legislative council but did not call for a boycott; some Hamas sympathizers ran as independents. In 2004, Israel killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas's spiritual leader, in retaliation for continued Hamas attacks, and subsequently Hamas military leaders based in Damascus, Syria, became more influential than the political leaders in Gaza.

In 2005 Hamas ran strongly in local elections in Gaza and the West Bank, besting Al Fatah in many areas, and in the Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections in Jan., 2006, it won a majority of the seats and then formed a government. Accelerating tensions between Hamas and Al Fatah threatened to dissolve the PA in chaos in the spring of 2006, but when Hamas forces captured (June) an Israeli soldier and held in him in the Gaza Strip it provoked a major Israeli incursion into N and central Gaza and renewed fighting. A political stalemate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas over recognizing Israel and other issues led to tensions with the PLO that erupted at times into fighting in 2006.

In 2007 Hamas and Al Fatah agreed to form a national unity government, but continuing clashes led to Hamas's seizure of control in the Gaza Strip (June, 2007), which then led Abbas to install a new government without Hamas. Israel subjected the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to a blockade. A new cycle of Hamas-Israeli fighting that began in Nov., 2008, led to another Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in Jan., 2009. Human rights groups accused both Hamas and Israel of committing war crimes during the fighting. Attempts since 2007 to reestablish a PA government including both Hamas and Al Fatah proved unsuccessful until 2014 when an agreement led to the appointment of a technocratic unity government. Tensions between the two groups, however, continued, and the government collapsed in 2015. July, 2014, saw Israeli air strikes against Hamas and the Gaza Strip after three Israeli teenagers were murdered in the West Bank. Israel blamed Hamas for the killings; Hamas denied responsibility. Hamas rocket attacks against targets in Israel began a cycle of significant retaliatory attacks and led to an Israeli ground invasion; a cease-fire was agreed to in August. In 2017 negotiations led to a preliminary deal between Hamas and Al Fatah to return the Gaza Strip to PA control, but the early 2018 progress toward completing the deal had stalled.

See studies by Z. Chehab (2007), J. Gunning (2008), and P. McGeough (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Hamas: Selected full-text books and articles

The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence By Shaul Mishal; Avraham Sela Columbia University Press, 2000
The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa By Mark Gasiorowski Westview Press, 2014 (7th edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 12 "The Palestinians"
A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism By Daniel Byman Oxford University Press, 2011
Librarian's tip: Section II "From Oslo through the Second Intifada"
Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal By Daniel E. Price Praeger, 2012
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "Islam: Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda"
Structural Flaws in the Middle East Peace Process: Historical Contexts By J. W. Wright Palgrave, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "Between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority: Islamic Movements and 'Development in the Gaza Strip'"
Hamas in Power By Klein, Menachem The Middle East Journal, Vol. 61, No. 3, Summer 2007
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Charting the Hamas Charter Changes By Nimer, Mohamed Insight Turkey, Vol. 11, No. 4, October 2009
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