From its inception, Hamas has chosen armed resistance in its efforts to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian armed group, Hamas, takes its name from an Arabic acronym that, in English, stands for ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’. Hamas is also an Arabic word for ‘zeal’.
Its roots trace back to the late 1970s, when activists established charities, clinics and schools in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, after Israel occupied both in 1967.
Hamas was formally established in December 1987 by Sheik Ahmad Yassin after the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising known as the first Intifada.
The following year, Hamas declared that liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation was every Muslim’s religious duty.
Hamas carried out its first attack against Israel in 1989, abducting and killing two soldiers, leading to Israel’s arrest of Yassin. Yassin would be released in 1997, in exchange for Mossad agents who had tried to assassinate Hamas’s political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal, in Jordan.
Hamas entered politics in 2005, and won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections the next year, beating its rival Fatah. But the two parties could not work together — Hamas favouring armed resistance, Fatah preferring to negotiate.
A year later, disagreements between them led to an armed conflict that would end with Hamas in charge of Gaza, while Fatah held the West Bank.
Today, both the European Union and the United States classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation, while others see it as a resistance movement.
Over the years, Hamas’s reliance on armed resistance has ebbed and flowed, but it has remained committed to its fight for Palestinian self-determination.