Overview

Also Known As:

Executive Summary

Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that emerged in the Gaza Strip in the late 1980s, during the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel. The group’s ideology blends Islamism and Palestinian nationalism and seeks the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Hamas has maintained its ties to the Brotherhood, but also receives financial and military support from Iran, which supports Hamas’s intention to destroy Israel. In recent years, Qatar has also provided significant funding for the group.

Hamas uses its provision of social services to build support amongst grassroots Palestinians, helping it to win the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. However, the group’s engagement in politics and welfare has not tempered its commitment to terrorism. Hamas’s preferred methods include suicide bombings, rocket and mortar attacks, shootings, and kidnappings. The group has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, the UK, the EU, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

Although Hamas formed a Palestinian Authority unity government with its rival Fatah in early 2006, the two groups continued to clash, often violently, leading Hamas to forcibly expel Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007. The terror group has ruled Gaza since, surviving on Iranian and Qatari aid, as well as income from the smuggling tunnels it has built beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. In 2013, the Egyptian army sealed off most of the tunnels, throwing Hamas and Gaza into a financial crisis.

Governance did not moderate Hamas. The group has been responsible for thousands of Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns, a 2006 cross-border raid resulting in the five-year captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and three wars with Israel, most recently in the summer of 2014. In May 2017, Hamas unveiled a new guiding political document that seemingly accepted a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem. In the same document, however, Hamas reaffirmed its refusal to recognize Israel, as well as its commitments to violence and the creation of a Palestinian state in the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah agreed to allow the PA to reassert its authority in Gaza, but the two sides have stalled on discussions over Hamas’s weapons.

Hamas has thus far refused to disarm and its leaders have remained committed to the group’s strategy of so-called armed resistance. Despite the new political document and reconciliation agreement with Fatah, Hamas shows no signs of renouncing its dedication to violence or the creation of an Islamist state.

Doctrine

Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, seeks to create an Islamist state of Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, replacing Israel, which Hamas does not recognize. Like its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood (and unlike the secular, nationalist PLO), Hamas strives to create an Islamist state based on the principles of sharia (Islamic law). Hamas views the entirety of the land of Mandate Palestine—excluding the 80 percent of Palestine that became modern-day Jordan—as an Islamic birthright that has been usurped. To that end, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has dedicated itself to violently seeking Israel’s destruction. Hamas’s slogan, spelled out in Article 8 of the organization’s 1988 charter, sums up the terror group’s belief system: “Allah is [our] target, the Prophet is [our] model, the Koran [our] constitution: Jihad is [our] path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of [our] wishes."“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

On May 1, 2017, Hamas unveiled a new political program to supplement its 1988 charter. The so-called Document of General Principles & Policies excised all references to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas’s origins in the movement. Hamas accepted in principle the idea of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 boundaries if approved by a Palestinian national referendum. However, Hamas at the same time reaffirmed its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and repeated its call for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.”“Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas, May 1, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/678/a-document-of-general-principles-and-policies. The document also reaffirmed Hamas’s dedication to “armed resistance” as the “strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.”“Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas, May 1, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/678/a-document-of-general-principles-and-policies.

1988 Charter

Hamas’s 1988 charter outlines four important themes crucial to Hamas’s doctrine:

Theme One: Relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood
Hamas is a direct descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood, growing out of the Brotherhood’s activities in Gaza, where it began setting up charitable organizations in the 1960s. Article 2 of the charter describes the Muslim Brotherhood as “a universal organization…. the largest Islamic Movement in modern times.“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. Hamas is “one of the wings of the Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine.”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. As such, Hamas adheres to an ideology in which Islam dominates all areas of life such as “culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgment, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

Theme Two: Palestine
According to Article 11 of the charter, Hamas declares the entirety of pre-1948 Palestine as “an Islamic Waqf [religious endowment] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day.”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

Theme Three: Nationalism
For Hamas, nationalism is part of its raison d'être, and it has intertwined nationalism with religious ideology, making it “part of the religious creed.” According to Article 12 of the charter, no need to fight is “more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Moslem land.” The resistance and “quelling [of] the enemy become the individual duty of every Moslem, male or female.” The charter even allows for “a woman…. to fight the enemy without her husband's permission, [as well as] the slave: without his master's permission.”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. Hamas has elevated its actions in support of its nationalist agenda—violent and non-violent alike—to the level of religious obligations. Along these lines, Hamas views its struggle against Israel as a cosmic battle of good (Islam) versus evil (Israel). Hamas’s charter is filled with language defining its mission in religious terms, casting Israel as an enemy of God. Article 28, for example, specifies: “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. ‘May the cowards never sleep.’”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

Theme Four: Israel and “armed resistance”
Hamas recognizes the fact that Israel exists, but does not recognize its legitimacy or right to exist. The introduction to the charter quotes Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna as saying “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. Hamas upholds “armed resistance” as the only method to liberate Palestine. In Article 13 of the charter, Hamas renounces all peace plans or negotiations to resolve the issue of Palestine. Negotiations are a “contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against [Islam]….”“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

Hamas’s Changing Strategies

Since Hamas joined the Palestinian Authority in 2006—and subsequently formed an independent government after its violent expulsion of the PA from Gaza – the international community has demanded that in order to gain international recognition, Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and recognize past agreements signed by the PLO. In a 2007 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Hamas’s deputy politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouk rebuked international demands, asking, “[W]hy should any Palestinian ‘recognize’ the monstrous crime carried out by Israel's founders and continued by its deformed modern apartheid state, while he or she lives 10 to a room in a cinderblock, tin-roof United Nations hut?”Mousa Abu Marzook, “Hamas’ Stand,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2007, http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-marzook10jul10,0,4334205.story#axzz2wYFiHYTy. Hamas has remained rigid in its core beliefs, but has demonstrated some flexibility in its positions and strategies.

Hamas’s adherence to its 1988 charter
In his 2007 Los Angeles Times op-ed, Abu Marzouk struck a conciliatory tone regarding Hamas’s charter, referring to it as a revolutionary document that must be looked at in the context of the time when it was written. “If every state or movement were to be judged solely by its foundational, revolutionary documents or the ideas of its progenitors, there would be a good deal to answer for on all sides,” he penned.Mousa Abu Marzook, “Hamas’ Stand,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2007, http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-marzook10jul10,0,4334205.story#axzz2wYFiHYTy. While Marzouk’s statement does not entirely annul the charter, it suggests the possibility of a pragmatic path toward moderation in which Hamas is not bound by inflexible dogma.

However, just a year before Marzouk made this remark, Mahmoud Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, declared that the group would “not change a single word in its covenant.”“Hamas in Their Own Words,” Anti-Defamation League, May 2, 2011, http://www.adl.org/anti-semitism/muslim-arab-world/c/hamas-in-their-own-words.html. Similarly, a senior Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, stated that the Palestinian legislative council, in preparing for the 2006 elections, would “[adhere] to the constants and strategies outlined in the [Hamas] charter.”“Hamas in Their Own Words,” Anti-Defamation League, May 2, 2011, http://www.adl.org/anti-semitism/muslim-arab-world/c/hamas-in-their-own-words.html.

Hamas’s 2017 political document
On May 1, 2017, Hamas convened a press conference in Qatar to unveil a new policy document, the first since the release of its organizational charter in 1988. The document—a supplement to Hamas’s 1988 charter—omits the original charter’s references to Jews and frames the Palestinian struggle as a nationalistic rather than religious one. Though the document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, the charter continues to withhold recognition of the State of Israel. As the document outlines, Hamas continues to embrace “armed resistance” against Israel in its pursuit of the “liberation” of Palestine “from the river to the sea.”“A Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas Media Office, accessed May 2, 2017, http://hamas.ps/ar/uploads/documents/06c77206ce934064ab5a901fa8bfef44.pdf;
“New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image,’” BBC News, May 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39744551.
The document also makes no mention of Hamas’s origins within the Muslim Brotherhood, which the group’s leaders have claimed to disavow. In March 2016, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied any links between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.Jack Khoury, “Hamas Denies Links With Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Elsewhere,” Haaretz, March 23, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.710423. Ahead of the document’s release, Hamas leaders said the new document does not replace the original 1988 charter, which remains in effect with its linkage to the Brotherhood.“New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image,’” BBC News, May 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39744551.

The potential acceptance of pre-1967 lines
Hamas leaders have suggested that they may be willing to accept a state of Palestine within the areas captured by Israel in 1967 (the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem), but without the recognition of Israel. In 2006, Hamas’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh stated that Hamas would accept a temporary Palestinian state within the pre-1967 areas and a 20-year truce with Israel.“Haniyeh Calls for Formation of Palestinian State on 1967 Lines,” Haaretz, December 19, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/news/haniyeh-calls-for-formation-of-palestinian-state-on-1967-lines-1.207641.

Hamas leaders have alluded to their potential participation in and acceptance of a PLO-Israel peace accord, but only if it were approved by a popular referendum of the Palestinian people. As Hamas and the PLO negotiated their unity deal in June 2014, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri declared that while Hamas would continue to not recognize Israel, the group would not “obstruct” any future negotiations between Israel and the PLO.Elhanan Miller, “Hamas: We Will Never Recognize Israel,” Times of Israel, April 27, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-official-denies-group-could-recognize-israel/.

Hamas’s offers of a temporary truce, or hudna, however, demonstrate that it remains committed to the long-term goal of destroying Israel, and that Hamas sees a Palestinian state as a step in that direction.

Hudna
Hudna is an Arabic word for “truce” or “quiet.” Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin stated in 2003 that a hudna does not only signify the cessation of terrorist attacks; Israel would also be expected to “release prisoners, stop killing and dismantle settlements.”Saud Abu Ramadan, “Interview: Hamas Head Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,” UPI, June 16, 2003, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2003/06/16/Interview-Hamas-head-Sheikh-Ahmed-Yassin/UPI-87751055774665/.

In 2004, Hamas co-founder Abdel Azziz al-Rantisi offered a 10-year hudna in exchange for Israel withdrawing from all the territories captured in 1967, including east Jerusalem, saying: “we accept a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for (Israeli) withdrawal and the establishment of a state.”Matthew Tostevin, “Israel Scorns Hamas 10-Year Truce Plan,” Reuters, January 26, 2004, http://web.archive.org/web/20040306192510/http://ads.eircom.net/hserver/acc_random=1408048099911/site=eircom/area=news/aamsz=135x57/pos=15. Israel rejected the offer, fearing that Hamas would use the 10-year lull to rearm and Israel, having given up all of the disputed territories, would find itself a victim of renewed Hamas terrorism. Indeed, Rantisi clarified that the hudna offer did not signify an end to the conflict.Matthew Tostevin, “Israel Scorns Hamas 10-Year Truce Plan,” Reuters, January 26, 2004, http://web.archive.org/web/20040306192510/http://ads.eircom.net/hserver/acc_random=1408048099911/site=eircom/area=news/aamsz=135x57/pos=15.

Hamas offered Israel a hudna twice after that: in 2006 then-Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh offered a 20-year truce for a temporary state in the territories,“Haniyeh Calls for Formation of Palestinian State on 1967 Lines,” Haaretz, December 19, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/news/haniyeh-calls-for-formation-of-palestinian-state-on-1967-lines-1.207641. and in 2008 then-politburo leader Khaled Meshaal called for a 10-year hudna in exchange for Israel’s evacuation from the territories. Meshaal told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, that the offer of a 10-year hudna was “proof” of Hamas’s tacit recognition of Israel, while still avoiding any formal recognition of the Jewish state.Associated Press, “Hamas Offers Truce in Return for 1967 Borders,” NBC News, April 21, 2008, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/24235665/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/hamas-offers-truce-return-borders/#.U-0eFYBdV5w. Despite Israel’s dismissal of the offer as a re-arming strategy for Hamas, Carter accepted the hudna as proof that Hamas had begun to accept Israel’s right to “live as a neighbor next door in peace.”Associated Press, “Hamas Offers Truce in Return for 1967 Borders,” NBC News, April 21, 2008, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/24235665/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/hamas-offers-truce-return-borders/#.U-0eFYBdV5w.

During the summer of 2015, Hamas and Israel reportedly discussed a long-term ceasefire of 10 to 15 years, according to various reports. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied direct or indirect contacts with Hamas. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was reportedly meeting with Hamas to discuss a long-term truce.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas, Fatah spar over peace talks with Tony Blair,” Jerusalem Post, August 13, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-holds-talks-with-Fatah-on-recent-efforts-to-reach-truce-with-Israel-412048. Fatah condemned Blair’s rumored role and said Hamas should coordinate its ceasefire talks through the PLO.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas, Fatah spar over peace talks with Tony Blair,” Jerusalem Post, August 13, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-holds-talks-with-Fatah-on-recent-efforts-to-reach-truce-with-Israel-412048.

In September 2017, Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef told the Jerusalem Post that Hamas was “prepared to make a long-term cease-fire” with Israel in exchange for lifting the blockade of Gaza instituted in 2007.Adam Rasgon, “Hamas Leader to JPost: We’re Ready For Long-Term Ceasefire With Israel,” Jerusalem Post, September 6, 2017, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-leader-to-JPost-Were-ready-for-long-term-cease-fire-with-Israel-504435.

The gun is the ‘only response’
Despite what may be cracks in Hamas’s rigidity, the group remains committed to its foundational goals and the role in which it has cast Israel. In 2013, Haniyeh reaffirmed Hamas’s refusal to compromise or renounce violence, declaring the “gun” the “only response” to Israel.“Haniyeh: No Compromise, Only Armed Resistance,” Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Haniyeh-No-compromise-only-armed-resistance. He argued that Hamas would obtain its goals “only through fighting and armed resistance,” and that “no compromise should be made with the enemy.”“Haniyeh: No Compromise, Only Armed Resistance,” Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Haniyeh-No-compromise-only-armed-resistance. In May 2014, just weeks after Hamas and the PLO announced their intention to form a unity government, Abu Marzouk referred to the recognition of Israel as “a red line” that Hamas would never cross.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas’ Abu Marzouk Says Recognizing Israel a ‘Red Line,’” Al-Monitor, May 5, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/05/interview-abu-marzouk-hamas-israel-fatah-reconciliation.html.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017 that would allow the PA to reassert its control over Gaza. But the sides delayed negotiation on Hamas’s armed wing. Abbas had demanded that Hamas disarm, while Hamas has insisted it will maintain its weapons.Hamza Hendaqi and Fares Akram, “Palestinian rivals reach preliminary deal on governing Gaza,” Associated Press, October 12, 2017, https://apnews.com/28b183dff81c41cc9e2bbd1e62361b26/Palestinian-rivals-reach-preliminary-deal-on-governing-Gaza;
Dov Lieber, “Translation of leaked Hamas-Fatah agreement,” Times of Israel, October 13, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/translation-of-leaked-hamas-fatah-agreement/;
Dov Lieber, “In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank,” Times of Israel, October 15, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-deal-with-fatah-hamas-said-to-agree-to-halt-attacks-from-west-bank/.

Organizational Structure:

Hamas’s leadership has historically been split between its foreign-based political bureau and its Gaza-based government, which at times find themselves at odds. Various Hamas leaders have made contradictory claims on whether the group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, operates independently or under the direction of the political wing.

Political bureau

The bureau is the Hamas’s principal authority. It is headed by Ismail Haniyeh, who took over from Khaled Meshaal in May 2017.Isabel Kershner and Majd Al Waheidi, “Hamas Picks Ismail Haniya as Leader as Power Balance Shifts to Gaza,” New York Times, May 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/middleeast/hamas-leader-ismail-haniya-gaza.html?_r=1. The bureau was previously based in Syria until Hamas leaders fled in 2012, having endorsed the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meshaal moved to Qatar, while other Hamas leaders relocated to Egypt.“Hamas Political Chiefs Exit Syria,” BBC News, February 28, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17192278;
Fares Akram, “In Break, Hamas Supports Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, February 24, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/world/middleeast/hamas-leader-supports-syrian-opposition.html?_r=0.
In June 2016, Meshaal announced his intention to step down by the end of the year ahead of Hamas’s internal elections.Dov Lieber, “Khaled Mashaal to step down as Hamas leader – report,” Times of Israel, June 15, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/khaled-mashaal-to-step-down-as-hamas-leader-report/. On February 13, 2017, Yahya Sinwar, a founding member of the group’s armed wing, won internal elections to replace Haniyeh as Hamas’s top political leader in Gaza. Hamas also elected lawmaker Khalil al-Hayya as Gaza’s deputy political leader.Fares Akram, “Hamas names shadowy militant as new leader in Gaza,” Associated Press, February 13, 2017, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9854bb8c51b14fe29f52fb943c07c14a/hamas-names-top-militant-new-leader-gaza;
Rory Jones, “Hamas Puts Militant Yahya Sinwar in Charge of Gaza,” Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hamas-puts-militant-yahya-sinwar-in-charge-of-gaza-1487001168.

The Shura Council (Majlis al-Shura) Hamas’s central consultative body, is primarily responsible for making decisions. Smaller Shura committees are employed to supervise various government activities anywhere from military operations to media relations, and then report back to the Shura council.Mathew Levitt, “Playing Hardball Within Hamas,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 6, 2009, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/political-hardball-within-hamas-hardline-militants-calling-shots-in-gaza.

Gaza government

Ismail Haniyeh is the former prime minister of Gaza’s Hamas government, responsible for the daily rule of the Gaza Strip since Hamas forcibly expelled the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007. In April 2014, Haniyeh stepped down and assumed the role of deputy leader of Hamas as part of a failed reconciliation agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization.Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner, “Israel Warns Against Embracing Newly Reconciled Palestinian Government,” New York Times, June 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/world/middleeast/israel-warns-against-embracing-newly-reconciled-palestinian-government.html. As part of that deal, a new PA prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, assumed control of Gaza and the West Bank under a consensus government in June 2014, but the PA has since failed to extend its control over the coastal enclave. Hamas remains firmly in control of Gaza’s government institutions and security services. In October 2016, the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza announced that Hamdallah would no longer have authority over Gaza and that Haniyeh would replace him as prime minister.Becca Noy, “Ismail Haniyeh named prime minister in Gaza,” Jerusalem Online, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/middle-east/the-arab-world/ismail-haniyehs-comeback-24198;
Ahmad Abu Amer, “Hamas calls for return of Haniyeh government,” Al-Monitor, October 21, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/10/hamas-return-haniyeh-government-gaza.html.
On February 13, 2017, Hamas elected Yahya Sinwar as its political chief in the Gaza Strip, replacing Haniyeh ahead of his then-expected ascendency to politburo chief.Fares Akram, “Hamas names shadowy militant as new leader in Gaza,” Associated Press, February 13, 2017, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9854bb8c51b14fe29f52fb943c07c14a/hamas-names-top-militant-new-leader-gaza;
Rory Jones, “Hamas Puts Militant Yahya Sinwar in Charge of Gaza,” Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hamas-puts-militant-yahya-sinwar-in-charge-of-gaza-1487001168.

Hamas’s Gaza government has been largely shunned by a large segment of the international community, while it has struggled to pay the salaries of 40,000 municipal workers in the strip.Avi Issacharoff, “As Qatar solves Gaza’s wages crisis, could Hamas have Liberman to thank?,” Times of Israel, July 25, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/as-qatar-solves-gazas-wages-crisis-could-it-be-that-hamas-has-liberman-to-thank/. In April 2017, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the PA would no longer pay Israel for the electricity powering the Gaza Strip. As Israel does not engage directly with Hamas, the PA had continued to pay for Israeli electricity to the coastal enclave following Hamas’s violent takeover in 2007. The PA’s announcement threatened to cut power to more than 2 million in Gaza. Hamas accused the PA of collaborating with Israel, while Hamdallah called for Hamas to turn Gaza back over to PA control.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Abbas turns screws on Hamas by cutting Gaza’s electricity,” Reuters, April 27, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-gaza-abbas-idUSKBN17T1J0.

In 2017, the PA made several moves to pressure Hamas to reconcile. That April, the PA drastically reduced the salaries of thousands of civil employees in Gaza.Isra Namey, “Gaza pay cuts deepen rift between PA and Hamas,” Al Jazeera, April 11, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/04/gaza-pay-cuts-deepen-rift-pa-hamas-170410101939251.html. In June 2017, the PA ended payments to Israel for the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply. The PA blamed Hamas for failing to reimburse it for paying for Gaza’s electricity. The PA called for Hamas to return Gaza’s governance back to the PA.Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, “Israel reduces power supply to Gaza, as Abbas pressures Hamas,” Reuters, June 12, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-power/israel-reduces-power-supply-to-gaza-as-abbas-pressures-hamas-idUSKBN1931XK.

In September 2017, Hamas announced its intention to dissolve its government in Gaza and called on the PA to immediately resume responsibility for the Gaza Strip. Hamas agreed to the PA’s demand to hold new parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza for the first time since 2006. The move followed talks in Cairo between Hamas and the Egyptian government.Fares Akram, “Hamas invites Abbas to resume control of Gaza,” Associated Press, September 20, 2017, https://apnews.com/e8438c54e9384220a423bcd33ed7fa5c/Hamas-invites-Abbas-to-resume-control-of-Gaza;
Mohamed Daraghmeh, “Hamas says it accepts reconciliation demands,” Associated Press, September 17, 2017, https://apnews.com/aec26df1cc2740c791033b3637e82d27/Hamas-says-it-accepts-reconciliation-demands;
Dov Lieber, “Abbas talks reconciliation with Hamas leader, but is mum on ending sanctions,” Times of Israel, September 18, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-talks-reconciliation-with-hamas-leader-but-is-mum-on-ending-sanctions/;
“Press Release issued by Hamas,” Hamas website, September 17, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/965/press-release-issued-by-hamas.
That October, Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo to allow the PA to resume control of Gaza by December 1 and later take control of Gaza’s border crossings. The sides delayed negotiation on Hamas’s armed wing.Hamza Hendaqi and Fares Akram, “Palestinian rivals reach preliminary deal on governing Gaza,” Associated Press, October 12, 2017, https://apnews.com/28b183dff81c41cc9e2bbd1e62361b26/Palestinian-rivals-reach-preliminary-deal-on-governing-Gaza;
Dov Lieber, “Translation of leaked Hamas-Fatah agreement,” Times of Israel, October 13, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/translation-of-leaked-hamas-fatah-agreement/;
Dov Lieber, “In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank,” Times of Israel, October 15, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-deal-with-fatah-hamas-said-to-agree-to-halt-attacks-from-west-bank/.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades comprise Hamas’s military wing. Created in 1991 with the reported aim to block negotiations between Israel and the PLO, the wing is named after a Muslim preacher who, in 1930, formed the “Black Hand,” an anti-Zionist and anti-British organization.Jack Khoury, “Jabari deputy likely to be Hamas’ next military commander,” Haaretz, November 25, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/jabari-deputy-likely-to-be-hamas-next-military-commander.premium-1.480253. Qassam Brigades leader Mohammad Deif is widely suspected of having ordered suicide bombings and other attacks carried out by the Brigades.Martin Asser, “Profile: Hamas Commander Mohammed Deif,” BBC News, September 26, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2284055.stm.

Political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill described Hamas’s relationship with the Brigades as reminiscent of Sinn Féin's relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army, quoting a senior Hamas official who said, “The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders [from Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance.”Ilana Kass and Bard E. O'Neill, The Deadly Embrace: The Impact of Israeli and Palestinian Rejectionism on the Peace Process (Lanham: University Press of America, 1997), 267. However, senior Hamas leaders have themselves pointed out that a neat separation between the political and military wing does not exist. Hamas's founder Sheikh Ahmad Yasin stated in an interview with Reuters that Hamas did not have uncoordinated wings: “we cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”Matthew Levitt, “Hamas from cradle to grave,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2004, http://www.meforum.org/582/hamas-from-cradle-to-grave. This view was supported by Hamas military commander Salah Shehadeh, who said: “the political apparatus is sovereign over the military apparatus, and a decision of the political [echelon] takes precedence over the decision of the military [echelon], without intervening in military operations.”Matthew Levitt, “Hamas from cradle to grave,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2004, http://www.meforum.org/582/hamas-from-cradle-to-grave.

Deif has survived two assassination attempts, leaving him wheelchair-bound after losing his arms and legs in a July 2006 Israeli airstrike, as well as an eye in a September 2002 helicopter strike. Deif has since gone into hiding, and his deputy, Ahmad Jabari, took over the Brigades’ leadership, with Deif remaining as the group’s figurehead. Jabari was himself killed by an Israeli strike in November 2012, marking the beginning of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Israeli authorities suspect that Deif resumed command of the Brigades after Jabari’s death and that he was responsible for ordering the terrorist rocket fire attacks launched during Israel’s summer 2014 conflict with Hamas.Elhanan Miller, “Is Prime Israel Target Muhammad Deif Overseeing Hamas’s Strategy?” Times of Israel, July 23, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/is-prime-israel-target-muhammad-deif-overseeing-hamass-strategy/.

Hamas has an estimated 20,000 fighters, with another 20,000 in its police and security forces.Yasmine Saleh, “Exclusive: With Muslim Brotherhood Crushed, Egypt Sets Sights on Hamas,” Reuters, January 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/14/us-egypt-gaza-idUSBREA0D09D20140114. Following the 2014 reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the PLO, it was revealed that some 25,000 Hamas employees in Gaza work in the security services, and that a majority of them belong to the Qassam Brigades.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas Not Giving up Military Wing, despite Agreement,” Al-Monitor, May 2, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/05/qassam-weapons-hamas-fatah-reconciliation.htm. According to one Qassam official, these employees would take orders from the Brigades—and not the Ministry of Interior—after the formation of a unity government with the PLO.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas Not Giving up Military Wing, despite Agreement,” Al-Monitor, May 2, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/05/qassam-weapons-hamas-fatah-reconciliation.htm.

Financing:

Hamas’s budget in 2013 was more than $700 million, with $260 million earmarked to the administrative costs of running Gaza.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Isolated Hamas Faces Money Crisis in Gaza Strip,” Reuters, October 9, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/us-palestinian-hamas-crisis-idUSBRE99804P20131009.

To fill its coffers and fund its administrative and terrorist activities, Hamas turns to several sources: funding, weapons, and training from Iran; donations from the Palestinian global diaspora;“Country Reports on Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, accessed June 24, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2007/103714.htm. and fundraising activities in Western Europe and North America.“Country Reports on Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, accessed June 24, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2007/103714.htm.

Charities

Global charities affiliated with Hamas collect donations on its behalf. These charities operate in countries that label Hamas a terrorist organization, and are often themselves designated as terrorist organizations when exposed by authorities. For example, Ottawa labeled the Canadian charity International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy a terrorist organization, and launched a “terrorist financing investigation” which revealed the organization’s funneling of approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various groups affiliated with Hamas between 2005 and 2009.Olivia Ward, “Canadian Charity with Alleged Ties to Hamas Listed as ‘terrorist’ Organization,” Toronto Star, April 29, 2014, http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/04/29/canadian_muslim_charity_listed_as_terrorist_organization.html.

On December 6, 2001, the United States froze the funds of the Holy Land Foundation, then the largest Muslim charity in the United States. Following a long investigation by the FBI into the activities of the organization, five of its leaders were convicted on charges of funneling money and supplies to Hamas. Hamas had previously been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in the United States. According to the findings of the court, the charity, which was set up in the 1980s, gave millions of dollars to charities in Gaza and the West Bank, which were Hamas social institutions.Terry Baynes, “Muslim charity leaders lose appeal in Hamas case,” Reuters, December 7, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/08/us-crime-hamas-idUSTRE7B707L20111208. According to an FBI report of a bugged meeting of the foundation, the then-head of the American political arm of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzouk, stated that the Holy Land Foundation was the “primary fund-raising entity in the United States” of the Palestinian resistance movement.Glenn R. Simpson, “Holy Land Foundation Allegedly Mixed Charity Money With Funds for Bombers,” Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2002, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB101476025597651120.

During the second intifada, Middle East charities created by Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and other governments collected and funneled millions of dollars to Hamas and other terror organizations for so-called martyr payments. In November 2001 alone, the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds passed $41 million to the families of suicide bombers, prisoners, and those wounded in the intifada.Josh Lipowsky, “‘A Way to Thwart Their Funding,’” Jewish Standard, August 1, 2014, http://jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/a_way_to_thwart_their_funding/.

A group of terror victims’ families took the Jordan-based Arab Bank to task for facilitating funding to Hamas terrorists through these “charities” in the first civil case against a financial institution accused of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. On September 22, 2014, after a 10-year legal process, a U.S. jury found Arab Bank liable for helping finance about two dozen Hamas suicide bombings.Erik Larson and Christie Smythe, “Arab Bank Found Liable for Hamas Terrorist Attacks,” Bloomberg, September 23, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-22/arab-bank-found-liable-for-hamas-terrorist-attacks.html. Damages for the plaintiffs, about 300 victims of the attacks or their families, will be decided in a separate hearing.

Hamas is responsible for about 60 percent of the attacks cited in the lawsuit, such as the 2001 bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem and a 2003 bus bombing in the city, while the rest are credited to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and others.Josh Lipowsky, “‘A Way to Thwart Their Funding,’” Jewish Standard, August 1, 2014, http://jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/a_way_to_thwart_their_funding/.

Attorneys for the victims hope the case will send a message to financial institutions to weigh the costs of doing business. “There are only a limited number of financial institutions that operate in the Palestinian territories. It’s one thing to move a million dollars through a courier through a tunnel. The kind of money needed to run a proto-government can only be done through formal banking channels,” said Gary Osen, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff.Josh Lipowsky, “‘A Way to Thwart Their Funding,’” Jewish Standard, August 1, 2014, http://jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/a_way_to_thwart_their_funding/.

Taxes and the tunnel economy

Hamas has spent years building a network of tunnels beneath the Gazan-Egyptian border in order to smuggle weapons and other goods. According to a 2012 Journal of Palestine Studies report, at least 160 children have died while digging the elaborate tunnel system.Nicolas Pelham, “Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 4 (Summer 2012), http://palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/42605. The underground smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has provided Hamas with a flow of tax revenue on smuggled goods, comprising roughly $500 million of Hamas’s annual budget for Gaza of just under $900 million. The Egyptian military closed the tunnels in late 2013 after it deposed the Muslim Brotherhood government, sending Gaza into an economic crisis.Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak, “Hamas in Worst Cash Crisis since Seizing Gaza,” Associated Press, March 13, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/hamas-worst-cash-crisis-since-seizing-gaza-181239758.html.

Constructing the tunnels was not a cheap endeavor, as each tunnel is believed to have cost between $80,000 and $200,000. To pay for the tunnels’ construction, Hamas turned to Gazan-based mosques and charities, which reportedly began offering pyramid schemes to invest in the tunnels with high rates of return. The number of tunnels reportedly grew from a few dozen in 2005, with annual revenue of $30 million per year, to at least 500 by December 2008, with annual revenue of $36 million per month.Nicolas Pelham, “Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 4 (Summer 2012), http://palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/42605.

By October 2013, Egypt claimed to have destroyed 90 percent of Gaza’s smuggling tunnels. According to Ala al-Rafati, the Hamas-appointed economy minister, the resulting losses to the Gaza economy between June and October 2013 amounted to $460 million.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Isolated Hamas Faces Money Crisis in Gaza Strip,” Reuters, October 9, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/us-palestinian-hamas-crisis-idUSBRE99804P20131009.

Foreign investment

Iran
Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas since the 1990s. In the U.S. case Weinstein v. Iran, the court noted that 1995-1996 “was a peak period for Iranian economic support of Hamas because Iran typically paid for results, and Hamas was providing results by committing numerous bus bombings such as the one on February 25, 1996.”Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god.

After Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Iran provided Hamas an estimated £13-15 million a month for governing expenses.Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html. However, Iranian aid to Hamas has decreased since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. While Iran has sided with the embattled Assad regime, Hamas has supported Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow Assad. As a result, Iran cut as much as £15 million a month to Hamas. In May 2013, Hamas’s deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad acknowledged that Iran had financially supported Hamas since 2006, but was sending the group only a “tiny amount” of money to maintain ties to the Palestinian cause.Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html. By March 2014, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said that relations between Hamas and Iran had returned to normal and that Iran continued to support Hamas as a “resistance organization.”Elhanan Miller, “Hamas and Iran Admit Increased Cooperation,” Times of Israel, March 12, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-and-iran-admit-increased-cooperation/.

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said in July 2015, however, that all Iranian aid to Hamas “has stopped—both civilian aid to the Gaza Strip and military assistance to Hamas.”Jack Moore, “Iran Ceases Financial Aid to Hamas in Gaza, Officials Claim,” Newsweek, July 28, 2015, http://europe.newsweek.com/iran-ceases-financial-aid-hamas-gaza-official-claims-330889?rx=us. Marzouk said that relations between Hamas and Iran had not advanced in a direction that “interested” Hamas and accused Iranian officials later that month of lying about their support.“Iran has stopped giving money to Hamas, top official says,” Times of Israel, July 28, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-has-stopped-giving-us-money-top-hamas-official-says/. According to Marzouk, Hamas had not received any Iranian money since 2009.“Hamas slams Iranian ‘lies’ of financial, military support,” i24News, January 31, 2016, http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/101236-160131-hamas-slams-iranian-lies-about-financial-military-support.

Hamas and Iran reportedly renewed their financial ties in 2017. That August, Hamas’s political leader in Gaza, Yahyah Sinwar, deemed the restored relationship as “excellent, or very excellent.”Fares Akram and Josef Federman, “New Hamas leader says it is getting aid again from Iran,” Associated Press, August 28, 2017, https://apnews.com/0427f88fe857479caa633fad5683aa96/New-Hamas-leader-says-it-is-getting-aid-again-from-Iran. Sinwar also called Iran the “largest backer financially and militarily” of Hamas.“Hamas leader in Gaza: Ties with Iran now ‘fantastic’; we’re preparing battle for Palestine,” Times of Israel, August 28, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-leader-in-gaza-ties-with-iran-now-fantastic-were-preparing-battle-for-palestine/.

Qatar
Qatar has invested heavily in the Gazan economy. In October 2012, the country launched a $254 million plan to modernize Gaza.“Qatar Funds Major Project to Rebuild Gaza,” Reuters, October 16, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/qatar-funds-major-project-to-rebuild-gaza-1.470405. The country later upped its investment to $400 million.“Qatar Ups Gaza Investment to $400 Million,” Agence France-Presse, October 23, 2012, http://tribune.com.pk/story/455921/hamas-qatar-ups-gaza-investment-to-400-million/. After Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in April 2014, the PA refused to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza. In June, Qatar stepped in and attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas through Arab Bank to pay the salaries of 44,000 civil servants, but the United States reportedly blocked the transfers.Elhanan Miller, “US Blocked Qatari Funds Intended for Hamas Employees,” Times of Israel, July 15, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-blocked-qatari-funds-intended-for-hamas-employees/.

Further, Qatar has provided a safe haven for Hamas’s political leadership since 2012. In January 2015, then-Qatari Foreign Minister referred to then-Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal as the country’s “dear guest.”Peter Kovessy, “Qatar FM: Hamas leader to remain in Dohas as ‘dear guest,’” Doha News, January 13, 2015, https://dohanews.co/qatar-fm-hamas-leader-remain-doha-dear-guest/. Hamas has utilized Qatari hotels and business centers for meetings and press conferences, such its May 1, 2017, press conference at Doha’s Sheraton hotel to announce the group’s new political document.Patrick Wintour, “Hamas presents new charter presenting a Palestine based on 1967 borders,” Guardian, May 1, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/01/hamas-new-charter-palestine-israel-1967-borders.

In April 2017, Yousef al-Ghariz, adviser to Qatar's ambassador to the Palestinian territories and head of the Qatari Committee for Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip told Al-Monitor that Qatar works with both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. He also said that Qatar “doesn’t get involved in any internal Palestinian political disputes.”Khaled Abu Amer, “ Qatar’s lifeline to Gaza,” Al-Monitor, April 3, 2017, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/palestine-qatar-reconstruction-committee-gaza-consensus.html.

“Qatar can’t continue to be an American ally on Monday that sends money to Hamas on Tuesday,” then-Senator John Kerry said in 2009.Jonathan Schanzer, “Opinion: Confronting Qatar’s Hamas Ties,” Politico, July 10, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/congress-qatar-stop-funding-hamas-93965.html. In July 2014, Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL) and John Barrow (D-GA) collected signatures from their colleagues on a letter to Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, Mohammed Bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi.

Saudi Arabia
During the second intifada Saudi Arabia passed millions of dollars to Hamas terrorists under the guise of charity. The Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to the families of suicide bombers, prisoners, and those wounded in the intifada as a financial incentive for terrorism. According to a de-classified U.S. State Department memoranda, “the United States provided evidence to Saudi authorities in 2003 that Saudi Arabia’s al Quds Intifadah Committee was “forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers.”Yonah Jeremy Bob and Frank G. Runyeon, “Arab Bank found liable over Hamas attacks, US jury says,” Jerusalem Post, September 22, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Arab-Bank-found-liable-over-Hamas-attacks-US-jury-says-376094.

Saudi Arabia has also invested in Gaza, pledging $1 billion to rebuild infrastructure after Hamas’s 2008 war with Israel.“Saudi Arabia to Donate $1B to Gaza,” Washingtion Times, January 19, 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/19/saudi-arabia-donate-1-billion-rebuild-gaza/.

Turkey
Turkey reportedly planned to donate $300 million to Gaza’s Hamas government in 2011,Saed Bannoura, “Turkey to Grant Hamas $300 Million,” International Middle East Media Center, December 3, 2011, http://www.imemc.org/article/62607. while other reports cited that this would become an annual donation to Hamas.Zvi Bar’el, “Turkey May Provide Hamas with $300 Million in Annual Aid,” Haaretz, January 28, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-may-provide-hamas-with-300-million-in-annual-aid-1.409708.

Key Leaders

  • Ismail Haniyeh

    Chief of Political Bureau, former deputy leader of Hamas, Hamas’s former prime minister of Gaza, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority
  • Moussa Mohammed Abu Marzouk

    Deputy political bureau chief and fundraiser
  • Yahya Sinwar

    Yahya Sinwar

    Leader of the Gaza Strip Political Bureau for Hamas
  • Mohammed Deif

    Chief of Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
  • Marwan Issa

    High-ranking leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
  • Saleh al-Arouri

    Saleh al-Arouri

    West Bank military commander; financier
  • Khaled Meshaal

    Former Chief of Hamas’s Political Bureau
  • Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

    Ahmed Yassin

    Co-founder of Hamas - deceased
  • Abdel Azziz al-Rantisi

    Abdel Azziz al-Rantisi

    Co-founder of Hamas - deceased
  • Salah Shehadeh

    Salah Shehadeh

    Founder of the Qassam Brigades - deceased
  • Yehya Ayyash

    Yehya Ayyash

    Bombmaker and former leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades - deceased

History

 

Violent Activities

Violent activities:

Hamas maintains that “all types of legitimate resistance are practiced to end the oppressions and injustices imposed by Israel” and that it is Hamas’s right to “resist with all means, including armed resistance, guaranteed by divine and international laws,” according to its English-language website.“About Hamas,” Hamas website, accessed November 7, 2016, http://hamas.ps/en/page/2/. Hamas has employed various violent tactics against Israeli military and civilian targets.

In May 2017, Hamas unveiled a new political platform that continued to call for “armed resistance” as Hamas’s primary strategy to liberate all of Palestine from the river to the sea.“Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas, May 1, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/678/a-document-of-general-principles-and-policies; Patrick Wintour, “Hamas presents new charter accepting a Palestine based on 1967 borders,” Guardian (London), May 1, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/01/hamas-new-charter-palestine-israel-1967-borders.

Suicide Bombings

Hamas began using suicide bombings as a tactic against Israeli citizens on April 6, 1994, when a suicide bomber operating on behalf of Hamas drove alongside a bus in Afula, Israel, and blew up his car, killing eight people.Clyde Haberman, “Arab Car Bomber Kills 8 in Israel, 44 Are Wounded,” New York Times, April 7, 1994, http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/07/world/arab-car-bomber-kills-8-in-israel-44-are-wounded.html. Hamas claimed at the time that the new tactic was in response to the February 25 massacre of 29 Palestinians at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque by radical Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein.Clyde Haberman, “Arab Car Bomber Kills 8 in Israel, 44 Are Wounded,” New York Times, April 7, 1994, http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/07/world/arab-car-bomber-kills-8-in-israel-44-are-wounded.html.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Hamas has continued to dispatch suicide bombers to kill Israeli civilian and military targets, collectively killing hundreds of people. A 2007 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that Hamas was responsible for roughly 40 percent of suicide attacks during the Second Intifada, which collectively killed more than 1,000 people.Efraim Benmelech and Claude Berrebbi, “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 223–38, http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/benmelech/html/BenmelechPapers/Human_Capital_Suicide_Bombers.pdf;
“Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accessed June 14, 2017, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/terrorism/palestinian/pages/victims%20of%20palestinian%20violence%20and%20terrorism%20sinc.aspx.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal reportedly banned the tactic in 2005, but a music video imploring the return of suicide bombings reportedly aired on Hamas television in February 2016.Patrick Martin, “Hamas’s new leadership may return to suicide bombings, Globe and Mail (London), February 12, 2016, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/hamass-new-leadership-may-return-to-suicide-bombings/article28751340/.

Second Intifada

Between September 2000 and March 2004, Hamas carried out 425 terrorist attacks in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. This included 52 suicide bombings, which killed 377 people and wounded 2,076 civilians and soldiers.“Hamas terrorist attacks,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 22, 2004, http://embassies.gov.il/MFA/FOREIGNPOLICY/Terrorism/Palestinian/Pages/Hamas%20terror%20attacks%2022-Mar-2004.aspx. Other attacks included shootings, stabbings, mortars, and bombings.“Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accessed November 7, 2016, http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Terrorism/Palestinian/Pages/Victims%20of%20Palestinian%20Violence%20and%20Terrorism%20sinc.aspx.

Beneath the Gaza-Egypt border

Hamas has spent years building a network of tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border in order to smuggle weapons and other goods. According to a 2012 Journal of Palestine Studies report, at least 160 children died while digging the elaborate tunnel system.Nicolas Pelham, “Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 4 (Summer 2012), http://palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/42605.

Hamas is suspected of colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood during Egypt’s 2011 revolution in order to bring down the government of Hosni Mubarak. Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammad Morsi, is under investigation for conspiring with Hamas during that period.Patrick Kingsley, “Morsi Being Investigated over Claims of ‘Colluding with Hamas’ in Uprising,” Guardian [U.K.], July 26, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/26/egypt-morsi-investigation-hamas-collusion.

The underground smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt provided Hamas with a flow of tax revenue on smuggled goods, providing roughly $500 million of Hamas’s annual budget for Gaza of just under $900 million.Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak, “Hamas in Worst Cash Crisis since Seizing Gaza,” Associated Press, March 13, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/hamas-worst-cash-crisis-since-seizing-gaza-181239758.html. The Egyptian military closed the tunnels in late 2013 after it deposed the Muslim Brotherhood government, sending Gaza into economic crisis.Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak, “Hamas in Worst Cash Crisis since Seizing Gaza,” Associated Press, March 13, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/hamas-worst-cash-crisis-since-seizing-gaza-181239758.html.

Constructing the tunnels was not a cheap endeavor, as each one cost between $80,000 and $200,000 to construct. Instead of implementing peaceful policies that would lead to Israel and Egypt lifting the blockade, Hamas has invested in the continuation of underground smuggling. To pay for the tunnels’ construction, Hamas turned to Gaza’s mosques and charities, which began offering pyramid schemes to invest in the tunnels with high rates of return.Nicolas Pelham, “Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 4 (Summer 2012), http://palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/42605. The number of tunnels grew from a few dozen in 2005, with annual revenue of $30 million per year, to at least 500 by December 2008, with annual revenue of $36 million per month.Nicolas Pelham, “Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 4 (Summer 2012), http://palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/42605.

By October 2013, Egypt had destroyed 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels. According to Ala al-Rafati, the Hamas-appointed economy minister, the resulting losses to the Gaza economy between June and October 2013 amounted to $460 million.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Isolated Hamas Faces Money Crisis in Gaza Strip,” Reuters, October 9, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/us-palestinian-hamas-crisis-idUSBRE99804P20131009.

Hamas has built a network of tunnels beneath the Gaza-Israel border for use in cross-border attacks, such as the June 2006 raid that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.Tim Butcher, “Soldier Kidnapped and Two Killed in Gaza Tunnel Attack,” Telegraph [U.K.], June 26, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1522370/Soldier-kidnapped-and-two-killed-in-Gaza-tunnel-attack.html. Israel claimed to have destroyed 32 of these tunnels during its 2014 war with Hamas. The tunnels reportedly cost Hamas $100 million to build.Yasmine Saleh and Lin Noueihed, “Israel, Hamas Militants Begin 72-Hour Truce,” Chicago Tribune, August 5, 2014, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-israel-hamas-gaza-truce-20140804-story.html;
Yardena Schwartz, “Israel Is Building a Secret Tunnel-Destroying Weapon,” Foreign Policy, March 10, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/10/israel-is-building-a-secret-tunnel-destroying-weapon-hamas-us-gaza/.

In August 2015, Hamas released a propaganda video of its members digging underground tunnels beneath Gaza, fighting Israeli soldiers, and a simulated takeover of an IDF base.“Watch: Hamas reveals ‘commando tunnel unit’ in new propaganda clip,” Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/WATCH-Hamas-reveals-commando-tunnel-unit-in-new-propaganda-clip-413421. In April 2016, Israeli media reported that Hamas had employed over 1,000 people to rebuild the tunnel infrastructure. Hamas was reportedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to rebuild the tunnels.“Report: Hamas taps over 1,000 terror operatives to dig Gaza tunnels,” Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Report-Hamas-taps-over-1000-terror-operatives-to-dig-Gaza-tunnels-450556. According to Ismail Haniyeh in January 2016, Hamas fighters “are digging twice as much as the number of tunnels dug in Vietnam.”Yardena Schwartz, “Israel Is Building a Secret Tunnel-Destroying Weapon,” Foreign Policy, March 10, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/10/israel-is-building-a-secret-tunnel-destroying-weapon-hamas-us-gaza/. A series of tunnel collapses in early 2016 killed several Hamas workers. Some Hamas operatives have blamed Israel for the collapses.Noam Rotenberg, “Exclusive: Hamas operatives fear entering tunnels, believe Israel behind collapses,” Jerusalem Post, March 3, 3016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Exclusive-Hamas-operatives-fear-entering-tunnels-believe-Israel-behind-collapses-446836. Israel is reportedly working with the United States to develop a system dubbed the “Underground Iron Dome” to detect and destroy the underground tunnels.Yardena Schwartz, “Israel Is Building a Secret Tunnel-Destroying Weapon,” Foreign Policy, March 10, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/10/israel-is-building-a-secret-tunnel-destroying-weapon-hamas-us-gaza/.

In early April 2016, Israel blocked private cement transfers to Gaza after claiming that Hamas had been diverting shipments for its own use, likely the reconstruction of its underground tunnel network. Hamas threatened the situation will “explode” if Israel doesn’t lift the ban. The United Nations’ Middle East envoy condemned “those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials” as “stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.”Michael Kaplan, “Hamas Threatens Gaza Could ‘Explode’ Under Israel’s Cement Ban,” International Business Times, April 5, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/hamas-threatens-gaza-could-explode-under-israels-cement-ban-2348691;
“Israel halts cement deliveries into Gaza following allegations of diversion; UN envoy urges rapid resolution,” UN News Centre, April 4, 2016, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53603#.Vw_3efkrKM8.

Military capabilities & arsenal:

Prior to 1996, Hamas’s arsenal included only a few AK-47 rifles and a single rocket-propelled grenade. That year, Ahmed Jaabari began to overhaul Hamas’s artillery, according to Reuters. Jaabari took command of Hamas’s armed wing in 2002. Israel assassinated Jaabari in 2012.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Analysis-Hamas homemade rocket industry bypasses crumbling supply lines,” Reuters, July 15, 2014, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/07/15/uk-palestinians-israel-hamas-analysis-idUKKBN0FK23220140715. In September 2013, the Qassam Brigades held a military parade displaying machine guns, sniper rifles, anti-tank RPGs, and revealing for the first time Hamas’s possession of SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas Tests Anti-Aircraft Missiles,” Al-Monitor, February 19, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/02/gaza-hamas-qassam-aircraft-missiles-israel-strela.html. In July 2015, the group created a military training camp for 25,000 new recruits, some as young as 15.Agence France-Presse, “Hamas opens military camp for 25,000 Gazans aged 15 and up,” Times of Israel, July 25, 2015, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-gives-25000-gazans-combat-training/.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimated that Hamas had approximately 10,000 rockets in its arsenal at the beginning of July 2014.Jim Michaels, “Israel: Hamas Still Has 5,000 Rockets in Its Arsenal,” USA Today, July 29, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/29/israel-hamas-rockets-gaza-tunnels/13316973/. By the end of that month, Hamas had fired more than 2,600 rockets at Israel, while the Israeli military estimated it destroyed an additional 3,000 rockets.Jim Michaels, “Israel: Hamas Still Has 5,000 Rockets in Its Arsenal,” USA Today, July 29, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/29/israel-hamas-rockets-gaza-tunnels/13316973/. The IDF estimated Hamas still had approximately 5,000 rockets left.Jim Michaels, “Israel: Hamas Still Has 5,000 Rockets in Its Arsenal,” USA Today, July 29, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/29/israel-hamas-rockets-gaza-tunnels/13316973/. By the end of the 2014 war, Hamas had fired approximately 4,600 rockets into Israel. Israeli intelligence estimated in March 2016 that Hamas had restored its rocket arsenal to its pre-2014 war levels of approximately 12,000.Avi Issacharoff, “Hamas has replenished its rocket arsenals, Israeli officials say,” Times of Israel, March 4, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-has-replenished-its-rocket-arsenals-israeli-officials-say/.

Hamas has relied on underground tunnels beneath Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel. During Hamas’s 50-day war with Israel during the summer of 2014, Hamas used these tunnels to stage raids inside Israel. Many of the tunnels into Israel were destroyed during the war, but Hamas has since sought to rebuild them. The Israeli military revealed in February 2016 that Hamas was “investing considerable resources” into rebuilding the tunnels.Shira Rubin, “Hamas tunnels: 'We can hear them digging beneath our feet,' say Israelis on Gaza border,” International Business Times, February 11, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/hamas-tunnels-we-can-hear-them-digging-beneath-our-feet-say-israelis-gaza-border-1543205. By March 2016, Israeli authorities estimated that Hamas had rebuilt at least 10 tunnels into Israel. Almost a dozen of these tunnels collapsed on the Hamas fighters digging them in early 2016, killing at least 10 Hamas members.Mahmud Hams, “Hamas is Tunneling its Way Into Israel Again,” Newsweek, March 8, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/hamas-tunnels-israel-palestine-gaza-434428.

Hamas also has as many as 1,200 tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. The tunnels are used to smuggle commodities as well as weapons into Gaza.Shira Rubin, “Hamas tunnels: 'We can hear them digging beneath our feet,' say Israelis on Gaza border,” International Business Times, February 11, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/hamas-tunnels-we-can-hear-them-digging-beneath-our-feet-say-israelis-gaza-border-1543205. In September 2015, Egypt began flooding many of these tunnels to cut off Hamas smuggling.“Egypt floods Gaza tunnels used for smuggling,” Al Jazeera, September 18, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/egypt-floods-gaza-tunnels-150918193805896.html. Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed in February 2016 that Israel had requested Egypt act against the tunnels.“Steinitz: 'Egypt floods Hamas tunnels, in part due to Israel's request,’” Jerusalem Post, February 6, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Steinitz-Egypt-floods-Hamas-tunnels-in-part-due-to-Israels-request-444040. Hamas has also reportedly used the Egyptian tunnels to transport aid to ISIS’s Sinai Province group.Avi Issacharoff, “Under Egypt’s nose, Hamas boosts cooperation with IS in Sinai,” Times of Israel, March 6, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/under-egypts-nose-hamas-boosts-cooperation-with-is-in-sinai/.

In September 2013, the Qassam Brigades held a military parade displaying machine guns, sniper rifles, anti-tank RPGs, and revealing for the first time Hamas’s possession of SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas Tests Anti-Aircraft Missiles,” Al-Monitor, February 19, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/02/gaza-hamas-qassam-aircraft-missiles-israel-strela.html.

As of October 2017, Hamas reportedly maintained an armed force of 25,000.Nidal al-Mughrabi and Omar Fahmy, “Palestinian rivals Fatah, Hamas sign reconciliation accord,” Reuters, October 12, 2017, https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKBN1CH0F5-OCATP. Hamas’s armed faction remained a point of contention in reconciliation negotiations with Fatah, which has demanded that Hamas disarm. Hamas agreed to halt all violence against Israel as part of the October agreement, but Hamas and Fatah delayed further discussion of Hamas’s armed faction.Dov Lieber, “Veneer of positivity fades in Palestinian unity talks as tough issues surface,” Times of Israel, October 16, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/veneer-of-positivity-fades-in-palestinian-unity-talks-as-tough-issues-surface/; Dov Lieber, “In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank,” Times of Israel, October 15, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-deal-with-fatah-hamas-said-to-agree-to-halt-attacks-from-west-bank/.

Violent Activities:

Designations

Designations by the U.S. Government:

August 29, 1995: The Department of the Treasury lists Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) under Executive Order 12947, prohibiting financial transactions between US persons or charities and the designated SDT.“Resource Center: Sanctions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 29, 1995, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Documents/sdnew95.txt. January 24, 1995: The US Department of the Treasury designates Hamas a Specially Designated Terrorist Organization (SDTO) under, prohibiting financial transactions between US persons or charities and the designated SDTO.“Executive Order 12947,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 23, 1995, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/12947.pdf. On this same date, the Department of the Treasury also lists Shaykh Ahmad Yasin (a.k.a. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin) as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) under Executive Order 12947, prohibiting financial transactions between US persons or charities and the designated SDT.“Resource Center: Sanctions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 29, 1995, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Documents/sdnew95.txt.
October 8, 1997: The Department of State lists Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This freezes any of the designated FTO’s assets in U.S. financial institutions, bans admission of members to U.S., and bans providing “material support or resources” to the designated entity.“Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, May 8, 2009, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm. August 22, 2004: The Department of the Treasury lists Khalid Mishaal (a.k.a. Khaled Meshaal) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224, which blocks all property in the US or under possession of control of US persons, bans any property-related transactions by US persons or within US, including giving or receiving contributions to the entity.“U.S. Designates Five Charities Funding Hamas and Six Senior Hamas Leaders as Terrorist Entities,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2003, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js672.aspx.

Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:

European Union— 15 member states froze Hamas' assets on September 11, 2003.“EU Blacklists Hamas Political Wing,” BBC News, September 11, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3100518.stm. European Union— Office Journal of the European Union froze Hamas’s European assets under Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No. 2580/2001 on December 21, 2005.“Council Decision,” Office Journal of the European Union, December 23, 2005, https://web.archive.org/web/20060107142924/http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00640066.pdf.
New Zealand— listed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a Terrorist Entity on October 11, 2011 under the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, which freezes the assets of terrorist entities and makes it a criminal offense to participate in or support the activities of the designated terrorist entity.“Designated Individuals and Organization,” New Zealand Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, last updated October 9, 2014, http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/personal-community/counterterrorism/designated-entities/lists-associated-with-resolutions-1267-1989-1988. United Kingdom—listed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a Terror Group under the Terrorism Act 2000 in March 2001.James Brokenshire MP, “Proscribed Terror Groups or Organizations,” The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, last updated September 15, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/proscribed-terror-groups-or-organisations--2.
Canada—listed Hamas as a terrorist entity on November 27, 2002.“Currently Listed Entities,” Public Safety Canada, November 27, 2002, http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2023 Australia—listed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization on November 9, 2003.“Listed terrorist organisations,” Australian National Security, accessed February 23, 2015, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/default.aspx.
Israel—listed Hamas as a terrorist organization.“Israel At ‘War to the Bitter End,’ Strikes Key Hamas Sites,” Fox News, December 29, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/12/29/israel-at-war-to-bitter-end-strikes-key-hamas-sites; “Profile: Hamas Palestinian Movement,” BBC News, last updated July 11, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522. Japan—listed Hamas as a terrorist organization.“Israel At ‘War to the Bitter End,’ Strikes Key Hamas Sites,” Fox News, December 29, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/12/29/israel-at-war-to-bitter-end-strikes-key-hamas-sites; “Profile: Hamas Palestinian Movement,” BBC News, last updated July 11, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522.
Jordan—banned Hamas.“Israel At ‘War to the Bitter End,’ Strikes Key Hamas Sites,” Fox News, December 29, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/12/29/israel-at-war-to-bitter-end-strikes-key-hamas-sites; “Profile: Hamas Palestinian Movement,” BBC News, last updated July 11, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522. Egypt—banned Hamas on March 4, 2014. Yasmine Saleh, “Court Bans Activities of Islamist Hamas in Egypt,” Reuters, March 4, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/04/us-egypt-hamas-idUSBREA230F520140304. Egypt’s Urgent Matters Court designated Hamas’s armed wing a terrorist organization in January 2015 and Hamas as a terrorist group that February.Joshua Berlinger and Ian Lee, “Egyptian court designates Hamas as a terror organization, state media says,” CNN, February 28, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/28/middleeast/egypt-hamas-terror-designation/. An appeals court canceled the designation in June 2015.“Egyptian court cancels Hamas listing as terrorist organization: sources,” Reuters, June 6, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-hamas-idUSKBN0OM0BZ20150606.

Associations



Terror Groups

Hezbollah
Hamas is accused of working with Hezbollah to stage a 2011 prison break of Muslim Brotherhood members during the Egyptian revolution.“Morsi Faces Court over Egypt Prison Break,” Al Jazeera, January 28, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/morsi-arrives-trial-over-egypt-jailbreak-20141287589134944.html. Disagreements have emerged between the groups because of the Syrian civil war as Hezbollah has fought on behalf of the regime, while Hamas has sided with the rebels and left its base in the country. However, relations between the two groups are still good, a Hezbollah source told Al-Monitor in 2013.Haytham Mouzahem, “Hezbollah-Hamas Relations ‘Good’ Despite Beirut Bombing Accusations,” Al-Monitor, August 27, 2013, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2013/08/hezbollah-hamas-relations-beirut-bombing-accusations.html. During the July 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the terror group invited Hezbollah to join in its rocket campaign against Israel.Ariel Ben Solomon, “Hamas Invites Hezbollah to Join in Fighting against Israel,” Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Hamas-invites-Hezbollah-to-join-in-fighting-against-Israel-369379.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade
Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade carried out several joint terrorist operations during the second intifada, including a March 2004 attack at the port of Ashdod that killed 10 Israelis,“Timeline: The Evolution of Hamas,” CNN, December 30, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/12/30/hamas.profile/. and a suicide bombing the following month at Gaza’s Erez Crossing that killed a border guard and wounded three others.Conal Urquhart, “Israeli Missile Attack Kills New Hamas Chief,” Guardian [U.K.], April 18, 2004, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/apr/18/israel. The Brigade has also joined Hamas in launching rockets at Israel over the years, most recently during the July 2014 conflict.Elhanan Miller, “Fatah Joins Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Missile Launches,” Times of Israel, July 10, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/moderate-fatah-joins-hamas-and-islamic-jihad-in-missile-launches/.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
On June 25, 2006, a group of Palestinian terrorists from multiple groups, including Hamas, crossed the Gaza border into Israel using an underground tunnel and attacked an IDF military outpost, killing two soldiers and taking 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit hostage.Tim Butcher, “Soldier Kidnapped and Two Killed in Gaza Tunnel Attack,” Telegraph [U.K.], June 26, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1522370/Soldier-kidnapped-and-two-killed-in-Gaza-tunnel-attack.html. Hamas denied any participation, but it was later revealed that the group—as well as members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad—were involved in the operation.Steven Erlanger, “Tensions Rise After Israeli Is Kidnapped,” New York Times, June 26, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/26/world/middleeast/26cnd-mideast.html; “Q&A: Gilad Shalit Capture,” BBC News, June 24, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6238858.stm. Hamas and PIJ announced a formal agreement in 2012 to combine forces in their fight against Israel.Elhanan Miller, “Gaza’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad Formally Join Forces to Fight Israel,” Times of Israel, October 10, 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/gazas-hamas-and-islamic-jihad-formally-join-forces-to-fight-israel/. The following year, the two groups announced plans to create a joint command and a new political vision for Gaza.Elhanan Miller, “Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Form Joint Command,” Times of Israel, September 17, 2013, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-and-islamic-jihad-to-form-joint-command/.
 

Ties to other entities:

Jordan

Hamas’s leadership based itself in Jordan in the 1990s, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is himself a Jordanian citizen. In September 1997, Israel reportedly attempted to poison Meshaal, but supplied the antidote after Jordan threatened to reverse its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.“Netanyahu in Spotlight as Assassination Plot Unravels,” CNN, October 5, 1997, https://web.archive.org/web/20080308162315/http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9710/05/israel/. In 1999, Jordan banned Hamas and arrested several of its leaders.Mike O’Connor, “Jordan Acts To Enforce Hamas Ban,” Washington Post, September 23, 1999, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1999/09/23/jordan-acts-to-enforce-hamas-ban/1742998a-7a9c-4e62-8eb1-25fedf4f7f3e/.Jordan expelled Meshaal and three other Hamas representatives that November.“Jordan Frees Four Jailed Hamas Leaders and Expels Them,” New York Times, November 22, 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/22/world/jordan-frees-four-jailed-hamas-leaders-and-expels-them.html.

After a 10-day trip to Jordan in July 2012, Meshaal claimed that Hamas and the Jordanian government have reconciled, though Hamas had committed to not involve Jordan’s Palestinian population in its activities. According to Meshaal, the new relationship focused on four principles: “The safety and stability of Jordan; Hamas’s non-intervention in internal Jordanian affairs; Hamas’ non-intervention in affairs concerning the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan; and finally on Palestinian-Jordanian relations.”Elhanan Miller, “13 years after king booted it out, Hamas leader says his group has reconciled with Jordan,” Times of Israel, July 9, 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/jordan-has-reconciled-with-hamas-khaled-mashaal-says/. In 2013, Jordan reportedly refused a Hamas request to reopen its offices in the kingdom.Khaled Abu Toameh, “King Abdullah Says No to Hamas,” Gatestone Institute, September 17, 2013, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3978/king-abdullah-hamas

Qatar

The emir of Qatar became the first head of state to visit Gaza after Hamas’s 2007 coup.“Emir of Qatar Become First Head of State to Visit Gaza since Hamas Took Control,” Huffington Post UK, October 23, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/23/emir-of-qatar-historic-visit-to-hamas-gaza_n_2004960.html. Since then, Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Gaza, pledging $400 million to Gaza in 2012.“Qatar Ups Gaza Investment to $400 Million,” Agence France-Presse, October 23, 2012, http://tribune.com.pk/story/455921/hamas-qatar-ups-gaza-investment-to-400-million/. After Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in April 2014, the PA refused to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza, and in response Qatar attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas to pay the salaries of 44,000 civil servants. The United States reportedly blocked the transfers.Elhanan Miller, “US Blocked Qatari Funds Intended for Hamas Employees,” Times of Israel, July 15, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-blocked-qatari-funds-intended-for-hamas-employees/.

Qatar has also hosted Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal since he left Syria in 2012.Abdullah Rebhy, “Qatar denies it plans to expel Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” Associated Press, January 12, 2015,http://bigstory.ap.org/article/04fc2928f3e04a77a1fdd45c24085397/qatar-denies-it-plans-expel-hamas-leader-khaled-mashaal. Qatari officials have referred to Meshaal as a “dear guest.”Peter Kovessy, “Qatar FM: Hamas leader to remain in Doha as ‘dear guest,’” Doha News, January 13, 2015, https://dohanews.co/qatar-fm-hamas-leader-remain-doha-dear-guest/. In June 2017, several Hamas leaders left Qatar amid rumors that the government had expelled them under international pressure. Hamas denied that the government had forced the Hamas leaders to leave.Sue Surkes and agencies, “Hamas commander involved in kidnap of Israeli teens expelled from Qatar,” Times of Israel, June 5, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-chief-said-involved-in-kidnap-of-israeli-teens-faces-expulsion-from-qatar/;
“Press release issued by Hamas concerning the claims of media outlets regarding the Qatari list,” Hamas website, June 5, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/771/press-release-issued-by-hamas-concerning-the-claims-of-media-outlets-regarding-the-qatari-list.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called Hamas a “legitimate resistance movement” and defended Hamas’s presence in the country as a “political representation of the Hamas movement” meant to promote Palestinian unity.“Qatari FM: For Arabs, Hamas is a resistance movement,” Al Jazeera, June 10, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/qatari-fm-arabs-hamas-resistance-movement-170610224850422.html.

Turkey

Turkey reportedly planned to donate $300 million to Gaza’s Hamas government in 2011,Saed Bannoura, “Turkey to Grant Hamas $300 Million,” International Middle East Media Center, December 3, 2011, http://www.imemc.org/article/62607. while other reports cited that this would become an annual donation to Hamas.Zvi Bar’el, “Turkey May Provide Hamas with $300 Million in Annual Aid,” Haaretz, January 28, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-may-provide-hamas-with-300-million-in-annual-aid-1.409708.

On August 12, 2015, then-political chief Meshaal met with Turkish leaders in Ankara, Turkey. The specifics of the meeting were not publicly revealed.“Hamas chief meets Turkish leaders in Ankara,” Middle East Eye, August 13, 2015, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-chief-meets-turkish-leaders-ankara-458667089. Arab media reported in December 2015 that Hamas’s top leader in Turkey had been expelled under U.S. and Israeli pressure as the Turkish and Israeli governments moved toward reconciliation. Hamas denied the reports.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Source: Top Hamas operative has left Turkey following heavy US, Israeli pressure,” Jerusalem Post, December 21, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Source-Top-Hamas-operative-has-left-Turkey-following-heavy-US-Israeli-pressure-437969. Later that month, Hamas denied rumors that Turkey intended to take control of Gaza.Lee Gancman, “Hamas denies rumors of Turkish designs on Gaza,” Times of Israel, December 29, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-denies-rumors-of-turkish-designs-on-gaza/. In the June 2016 reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey, the Turkish government agreed not to allow fundraising for Hamas within its territory.Herb Keinon, “Israel, Turkey officially reconcile: Netanyahu says Gaza blockade to remain,” Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-Israel-to-uphold-Gaza-blockade-after-Turkey-deal-457868. Hamas has rejected the reconciliation agreement, but reportedly acceded to Turkish demands that it not react.Stuart Winer, “Hamas rejects Israel-Turkey deal, but heeds Turkish call not to make a fuss,” Times of Israel, June 28, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/behind-the-scenes-hamas-rejects-israel-turkey-reconciliation/.

Muslim Brotherhood

Hamas was created in 1987 as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.“The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” Avalon Project, Yale Law School, accessed August 13, 2014, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. More than two decades later, Hamas continues to enjoy close ties to the Brotherhood. Hamas is suspected of aiding in a jailbreak of Brotherhood activists, including former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in 2011.“Morsi Faces Court over Egypt Prison Break,” Al Jazeera, January 28, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/morsi-arrives-trial-over-egypt-jailbreak-20141287589134944.html. Further, the Brotherhood-controlled Egyptian government provided Hamas with support and turned a blind eye to illegal smuggling beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. After the downfall of the Brotherhood-controlled government in 2013, the Egyptian army closed off most of the tunnels, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue for the Hamas government and an economic crisis in Gaza.Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak, “Hamas in Worst Cash Crisis since Seizing Gaza,” Associated Press, March 13, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/hamas-worst-cash-crisis-since-seizing-gaza-181239758.html.

In January 2014, Cairo publicly hosted the first conference of Tamarud (“Rebellion”,) a new anti-Hamas youth group.Yasmine Saleh, “Court Bans Activities of Islamist Hamas in Egypt,” Reuters, March 4, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/04/us-egypt-hamas-idUSBREA230F520140304. In March 2014, Egypt banned all activities by Hamas following a lawsuit against the group due to its connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.“Court in Egypt bans Palestinian group Hamas,” BBC News, March 4, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26432122.

In March 2016, Egypt’s Interior Ministry accused Hamas of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood and coordinating the June 2015 assassination of Hisham Barakat, Egypt’s chief prosecutor, in a Cairo car bombing. Later that month, Hamas removed all pictures of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and any other signs of Muslim Brotherhood links from its Gaza offices. The move reportedly came after a meeting between Hamas leaders and Egypt officials who demanded Hamas renounce its links with the Brotherhood before Egypt would restore relations with Hamas.“Hamas removes picture of Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza,” Middle East Monitor, March 22, 2016, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/24610-hamas-removes-picture-of-morsi-muslim-brotherhood-in-gaza. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later denied any links between his group and the Muslim Brotherhood.Jack Khoury, “Hamas Denies Links With Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Elsewhere,” Haaretz, March 23, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.710423.

In May 2017, Hamas released a new guiding political document, which made no mention of the Muslim Brotherhood.“Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas, May 1, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/678/a-document-of-general-principles-and-policies; Patrick Wintour, “Hamas presents new charter accepting a Palestine based on 1967 borders,” Guardian (London), May 1, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/01/hamas-new-charter-palestine-israel-1967-borders.

PLO/Fatah/Palestinian Authority

Hamas has remained separate from the PLO, emerging in the late 1980s when the PLO began to moderate its positions in order to launch a peace process with Israel. In 1996, Hamas contemplated joining the Palestinian Authority government but ultimately decided to remain apart.

In the power-vacuum that followed PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Hamas ran in the January 2006 PA legislative elections and won a majority in the PA Legislative Council. After a year of clashes between Hamas and Fatah gunmen, Hamas expelled the PA’s forces from Gaza and took control of the coastal strip. In April 2014, the PLO and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement and pledged to form a unity government.Jodi Rudoren and Michael R. Gordon, “Palestinian Rivals Announce Unity Pact, Drawing U.S. and Israeli Rebuke,” New York Times, April 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/world/middleeast/palestinian-factions-announce-deal-on-unity-government.html. The move helped derail U.S.-led peace talks between Israel and the PLO.

The sides failed to implement the reconciliation agreement, however, resulting in a continued split between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. At least five reconciliation agreements to date have failed. Hamas and the PA argue over who would retain control of Gaza’s border crossings and assume responsibility for paying the salaries of civil servants.Adnan Abu Amer, “Another Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement bites the dust,” Al-Monitor, March 1, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/03/palestinian-reconciliation-hamas-fatah-qatar-meeting.html.

Hamas agreed to join the PLO in 2011 and 2014 under failed reunification deals with the Fatah-led PA. On November 2, 2016, Khaled Meshaal called for Hamas to join the PLO. In response, a senior PLO member told Israeli media that the PLO wants to bring Hamas under its wings.Dov Lieber, “Hamas looks to join PLO, marking major unification step,” Times of Israel, November 2, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-head-makes-unprecedented-call-for-group-to-join-plo/.

In January 2017, after unofficial talks in Moscow hosted by Russia, Hamas and Fatah announced an agreement to form a unity government.Agence France-Presse, “Hamas, Fatah announce deal to form Palestinian unity government,” Times of Israel, January 17, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-fatah-agree-to-form-palestinian-unity-government/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=47ba7211d8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-47ba7211d8-55118405. The parties agreed to form a new National Council that includes Palestinians in exile, and hold new elections. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other violent Palestinian factions agreed to the reconciliation, but the parties did not set a timetable for moving forward.“Fatah and Hamas to form unity government,” Al Jazeera, January 18, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/fatah-hamas-form-unity-government-170118031339203.html.

In June 2017, in a move to pressure Hamas to reconcile, the PA ended payments to Israel for the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply. The PA blamed Hamas for failing to reimburse it for paying for Gaza’s electricity. The PA called for Hamas to return Gaza’s governance back to the PA.Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, “Israel reduces power supply to Gaza, as Abbas pressures Hamas,” Reuters, June 12, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-power/israel-reduces-power-supply-to-gaza-as-abbas-pressures-hamas-idUSKBN1931XK. That September, Hamas announced its intention to dissolve its government in Gaza and called on the PA to immediately resume responsibility for the Gaza Strip. Hamas agreed to the PA’s demand to hold new parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza for the first time since 2006. The move followed talks in Cairo between Hamas and the Egyptian government.Fares Akram, “Hamas invites Abbas to resume control of Gaza,” Associated Press, September 20, 2017, https://apnews.com/e8438c54e9384220a423bcd33ed7fa5c/Hamas-invites-Abbas-to-resume-control-of-Gaza;
Mohamed Daraghmeh, “Hamas says it accepts reconciliation demands,” Associated Press, September 17, 2017, https://apnews.com/aec26df1cc2740c791033b3637e82d27/Hamas-says-it-accepts-reconciliation-demands;
Dov Lieber, “Abbas talks reconciliation with Hamas leader, but is mum on ending sanctions,” Times of Israel, September 18, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-talks-reconciliation-with-hamas-leader-but-is-mum-on-ending-sanctions/;
“Press Release issued by Hamas,” Hamas website, September 17, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/965/press-release-issued-by-hamas.

Saudi Arabia

Hamas officials held meetings in July 2015 with the Saudi leadership in what some analysts suspect were attempts to sway Hamas away from Iran and built a Sunni coalition against the Persian country.David D. Kirkpatrick and Ben Hubbard, “King Salman of Saudi Arabia Meets With Hamas Leaders,” New York Times, July 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/world/middleeast/king-salman-of-saudi-arabia-meets-with-hamas-leaders.html. Also that summer, Saudi Arabia also reportedly attempted to mediate reconciliation between Hamas and Egypt.“Egypt rejects Saudi mediation to restore relations with Hamas,” Middle East Monitor, July 21, 2015, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19932-egypt-rejects-saudi-mediation-to-restore-relations-with-hamas; “Hamas plans another visit to Saudi and improved relations with Egypt,” Middle East Monitor, July 27, 2015, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20051-hamas-plans-another-visit-to-saudi-and-improved-relations-with-egypt. In August 2015, citing Hamas meetings with Saudi Arabia’s king and meetings with Egyptian leaders, Hamas officials told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the group had been successfully elevating its international status.Jack Khoury, “Hamas Considers Gaza War a Failure, Favors Diplomacy,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), August 6, 2015, http://www.haaretz.com/beta/.premium-1.669751.

Syria

Syria has long acted as a conduit between Hamas and its Iranian benefactor, allowing weapons and money to cross its borders. Hamas’s political leadership was based in Damascus until 2012, when it relocated due to the ongoing Syrian civil war.“Hamas Political Chiefs Exit Syria,” BBC News, February 28, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17192278.

Ties to entities designated by the U.S. or foreign governments:

Countries

Iran
Iran has long been a benefactor of Hamas, providing weapons, training, and money. During the 1990s, Iran was a key financier of Hamas terrorism, providing financial rewards for bombings and higher rewards for higher death tolls.

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Iran continued to sponsor Hamas terrorism and the Hamas government.

Hamas and Iran had a falling out during the Syrian civil war, when Hamas abandoned its headquarters in Syria and supported the rebel cause against Syrian President Assad.Harriet Sherwood, “Hamas and Iran Rebuild Ties Three Years after Falling out over Syria,” Guardian [U.K.], January 9, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/09/hamas-iran-rebuild-ties-falling-out-syria.
North Korea
In July 2014, Western security officials revealed a secret arms deal between North Korea and Hamas worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have provided the terror group with missiles and communications equipment to use in its conflict with Israel that month.Con Coughlin, “Hamas and North Korea in Secret Arms Deal,” Telegraph [U.K.], July 26, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10992921/Hamas-and-North-Korea-in-secret-arms-deal.html.

Political connections to U.S. or global leaders:

United States

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, which has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government in Gaza. Since Hamas and the PLO signed a unity deal in April 2014, however, the U.S. State Department announced its willingness to work with a unity government, as the cabinet is made up of technocrats unaffiliated with Hamas.Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Says to Work With, Fund Palestinian Unity Government,” Reuters, June 2, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/02/us-palestinian-unity-usa-idUSKBN0ED1VQ20140602. Members of the U.S. Congress have since called for cutting U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority because of the unity deal.Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Says to Work With, Fund Palestinian Unity Government,” Reuters, June 2, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/02/us-palestinian-unity-usa-idUSKBN0ED1VQ20140602.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with Hamas’s political chief Khaled Meshaal in 2008 in an attempt to broker peace. During a press conference, Meshaal said Hamas accepts a Palestinian state with the June 4, 1967, borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.“Hamas: No Plan to Recognize Israel,” CNN, April 21, 2008, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/04/21/carter.hamas/index.html. Meshaal also offered Israel a 10-year hudna, which he told Carter was proof of Hamas’s tacit recognition of Israel.“Hamas Offers Truce in Return for 1967 Borders,” Associated Press, April 21, 2008, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/24235665/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/hamas-offers-truce-return-borders/#.U-0eFYBdV5w. Meshaal and other Hamas leaders have since denied agreeing to the 1967 lines.

Israel

The Israeli government has no formal contacts with Hamas. Ceasefire talks in July 2014 and in recent years have consisted of indirect talks through foreign mediators, such as Egypt.

Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin maintains quiet contacts with members of the Hamas government, primarily to discuss issues related to the ceasefires between Israel and Gaza.Josh Lipowsky, “Israel’s Bridge to Hamas,” Jewish Standard, March 7, 2014, http://jstandard.com/content/item/israels_bridge_to_hamas/30131. Baskin passes these messages to the Israeli government, which on occasion responds. It was Baskin’s backchannel diplomacy that led to the 2011 prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Baskin does not hold a formal position in the Israeli government, though, and his contacts with Hamas are not on behalf of the Israeli government, although the Israeli government has not demanded that Baskin cease his efforts.Josh Lipowsky, “Israel’s Bridge to Hamas,” Jewish Standard, March 7, 2014, http://jstandard.com/content/item/israels_bridge_to_hamas/30131.

Iran

Iran has long maintained regular political and financial contacts with Hamas. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has visited Tehran several times, while the Iranian government provides Hamas with funding and weapons.

Iran has passed millions of dollars to Hamas. In the U.S. case Weinstein v. Iran, the court noted that 1995-1996 “was a peak period for Iranian economic support of Hamas because Iran typically paid for results, and Hamas was providing results by committing numerous bus bombings such as the one on February 25, 1996.”Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god.

Iranian funding to Hamas has shrunk since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. While Iran has sided with the embattled Assad regime, Hamas has supported Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow Assad. As a result, Iran has cut as much as £15 million a month to Hamas.Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html. Ghazi Hamad, Hamas's deputy foreign minister, said: “I cannot deny that since 2006 Iran supported Hamas with money and many [other] things. But the situation is not like the past. I cannot say that everything is normal.”Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html. After Hamas’s victory in 2006’s Palestinian legislative elections, Iran provided Hamas an estimated £13-15 million a month for governing expenses.Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html.

The Syrian civil war drove a wedge between Hamas – which supported Syrian rebels – and Iran – which supports the Assad regime. As a result, Iran cut Hamas’s funding to a “tiny amount” to maintain ties and its support of the Palestinian cause.Robert Tait, “Iran Cuts Hamas Funding over Syria,” Telegraph [U.K.], May 31, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html.

The overthrow of Egypt’s pro-Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood–controlled government in 2013 left Hamas without a major ally, leading it to restore its relationship with Iran out of necessity. In 2014, Hamas and Iranian officials began to repair ties. In January 2014, senior Hamas official Bassem Naim claimed that ties between the two “had never been conclusively severed” and that several recent meetings had led to “a marked improvement and progression in the relationship.”Harriet Sherwood, “Hamas and Iran Rebuild Ties Three Years after Falling out over Syria,” Guardian [U.K.], January 9, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/09/hamas-iran-rebuild-ties-falling-out-syria. Taher al-Nounou, an aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said relations were “almost back to how they were before.”Harriet Sherwood, “Hamas and Iran Rebuild Ties Three Years after Falling out over Syria,” Guardian [U.K.], January 9, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/09/hamas-iran-rebuild-ties-falling-out-syria.

In March, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said relations between Hamas and Iran had returned to normal and that Iran continues to support Hamas as a “resistance organization.”Elhanan Miller, “Hamas and Iran Admit Increased Cooperation,” Times of Israel, March 12, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-and-iran-admit-increased-cooperation/.

During the July 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict, Iranian officials admitted that Iran had transferred the technology to Hamas for the terror group to build its own rockets. “Once upon a time, they [Hamas] needed the arms manufacture know-how and we gave it to them” and Hamas can now “meet their own needs for weapons,” Larijani said.“Iran gave Hamas its rocket know-how, official boasts”, Agence France-Presse, July 24, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/iran-gave-hamas-rocket-know-official-boasts-190726914.html.

In August 2017, Hamas’s political leader in Gaza, Yahyah Sinwar, announced that Iran and Hamas had renewed their ties. Sinwar told reporters that ties between Iran and Hamas were “excellent, or very excellent.”Fares Akram and Josef Federman, “New Hamas leader says it is getting aid again from Iran,” Associated Press, August 28, 2017, https://apnews.com/0427f88fe857479caa633fad5683aa96/New-Hamas-leader-says-it-is-getting-aid-again-from-Iran. Sinwar also called Iran the “largest backer financially and militarily” of Hamas.“Hamas leader in Gaza: Ties with Iran now ‘fantastic’; we’re preparing battle for Palestine,” Times of Israel, August 28, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-leader-in-gaza-ties-with-iran-now-fantastic-were-preparing-battle-for-palestine/. Calling Iranian military support to Hamas “strategic,” Sinwar told reporters that Iran is aiding Hamas in building its “military strength in order to liberate Palestine.”“Hamas leader in Gaza: Ties with Iran now ‘fantastic’; we’re preparing battle for Palestine,” Times of Israel, August 28, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-leader-in-gaza-ties-with-iran-now-fantastic-were-preparing-battle-for-palestine/.

North Korea

Hamas has also allegedly received arms from North Korea. The link first became public after a cargo of North Korean weapons was seized in Bangkok airport in 2009.Con Coughlin, “Hamas and North Korea in Secret Arms Deal,” Telegraph [U.K.], July 26, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10992921/Hamas-and-North-Korea-in-secret-arms-deal.html. Investigators later confirmed that the cargo was destined for Iran, from where it was to be smuggled to Lebanon and Gaza. Western security sources also suspect that North Korea has offered Hamas advice on the building of tunnels, which has enabled Hamas to smuggle weapons and fighters in and out of Gaza.

In July 2014, reports indicated that Hamas was attempting to buy arms and communication equipment from North Korea in order to continue attacks on Israel.Con Coughlin, “Hamas and North Korea in Secret Arms Deal,” Telegraph [U.K.], July 26, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10992921/Hamas-and-North-Korea-in-secret-arms-deal.html. The deal was reportedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.Con Coughlin, “Hamas and North Korea in Secret Arms Deal,” Telegraph [U.K.], July 26, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10992921/Hamas-and-North-Korea-in-secret-arms-deal.html.

Russia

Russia is a member of the Quartet and has signed on to the Quartet’s demands that Hamas recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and accept past agreements before it receives international recognition. Russia has attempted to push Hamas toward these goals by inviting Hamas government representatives to Moscow for official meetings.

In March 2006, Hamas delegation visited Moscow for three days of meetings with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.Steven Lee Myers and Greg Myre, “Hamas Delegation Visits Moscow for a Crash Course in Diplomacy,” New York Times, March 4, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/04/international/middleeast/04hamas.html. It was the first Hamas state visit outside of the Islamic world since Hamas joined the Palestinian Authority. Hamas viewed the invitation as a way to foil American and Israeli attempts to isolate it, while Russian officials used the visit to try to convince Hamas to accept the Quartet’s demands of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and accepting past agreements.Steven Lee Myers and Greg Myre, “Hamas Delegation Visits Moscow for a Crash Course in Diplomacy,” New York Times, March 4, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/04/international/middleeast/04hamas.html.

In May 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus. Israel condemned the meeting, during which Medvedev called for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and for Hamas to reconcile with Fatah.“Israeli ‘Disappointment’ over Russia-Hamas Meeting,” CNN, May 13, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/05/13/israel.russia.hamas/.

In response to Israeli criticism, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said his country has “regular” contacts with Hamas, and “all other members of the Quartet on the Middle East maintain contacts with Hamas leaders in one way or another, although they are reluctant to admit this publicly, for some reason.” During a November 2015 press conference, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov called Hezbollah and Hamas “legitimate societal-political forces.”“Russia Says Hezbollah, Hamas Aren't Terrorist Groups,” Moscow Times, November 16, 2015, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-says-hezbollah-hamas-arent-terrorist-groups/549136.html.

Qatar

In 2012, the emir of Qatar became the first head of state to visit Gaza after Hamas’s 2007 coup.“Emir of Qatar Become First Head of State to Visit Gaza since Hamas Took Control,” Huffington Post UK, October 23, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/23/emir-of-qatar-historic-visit-to-hamas-gaza_n_2004960.html. Since then, Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Gaza, pledging $400 million to Gaza in 2012.“Qatar Ups Gaza Investment to $400 Million,” Agence France-Presse, October 23, 2012, http://http://tribune.com.pk/story/455921/hamas-qatar-ups-gaza-investment-to-400-million/. After Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in April 2014, the PA refused to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza, and in response Qatar attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas to pay the salaries of 44,000 civil servants, but the United States reportedly blocked the transfers.Elhanan Miller, “US Blocked Qatari Funds Intended for Hamas Employees,” Times of Israel, July 15, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-blocked-qatari-funds-intended-for-hamas-employees/.

Qatar has also hosted former Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal since he left Syria in 2012. During the July 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel, Qatar was considered one of Hamas’s closest international allies.Mirren Gidda, “Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left,” Time, July 25, 2014, http://time.com/3033681/hamas-gaza-palestine-israel-egypt/;
Jonathan Schanzer, “Hamas’s BFFs,” Foreign Policy, August 4, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/04/hamas_s_bffs_turkey_qatar_israel_gaza?wp_login_redirect=0.
Qatar drafted a ceasefire proposal in July 2014 that adopted most of Hamas’s demands without consideration to any of Israel’s.Avi Issacharoff, “Qatar’s Ceasefire Offer Adopts Most Hamas Demands,” Times of Israel, July 19, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/qatars-ceasefire-offer-adopts-most-hamas-demands/. Because of its close ties to Hamas, the United States invited Qatar to a Paris meeting in mid-July 2014 to discuss a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The move drew criticism from the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, who claimed that the United States was attempting to sideline them.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinian Authority Blasts Kerry for ‘Appeasing’ Qatar, Turkey at Ramallah’s Expense,” Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Palestinian-Authority-blasts-Kerry-for-appeasing-Qatar-Turkey-at-Ramallahs-expense-369091.

Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party supports what analysts call “other neo-Islamist allies.”Mirren Gidda, “Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left,” Time, July 25, 2014, http://time.com/3033681/hamas-gaza-palestine-israel-egypt/. This has resulted in Turkey investing millions of dollars into Gaza’s Hamas government, (detailed in the financial support section.) Turkey reportedly planned to donate $300 million to Gaza’s Hamas government in 2011,Saed Bannoura, “Turkey to Grant Hamas $300 Million,” International Middle East Media Center, December 3, 2011, http://www.imemc.org/article/62607. while other reports cited that this would become an annual donation to Hamas.Zvi Bar’el, “Turkey May Provide Hamas with $300 Million in Annual Aid,” Haaretz, January 28, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-may-provide-hamas-with-300-million-in-annual-aid-1.409708.

During the July 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel, Qatar and Turkey were considered Hamas’s closest international allies. Mirren Gidda, “Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left,” Time, July 25, 2014, http://time.com/3033681/hamas-gaza-palestine-israel-egypt/; Jonathan Schanzer, “Hamas’s BFFs,” Foreign Policy, August 4, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/04/hamas_s_bffs_turkey_qatar_israel_gaza?wp_login_redirect=0. Qatar drafted a ceasefire proposal in July 2014 that adopted most of Hamas’s demands without consideration to any of Israel’s.Avi Issacharoff, “Qatar’s Ceasefire Offer Adopts Most Hamas Demands,” Times of Israel, July 19, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/qatars-ceasefire-offer-adopts-most-hamas-demands/. Because of their close ties to Hamas, the United States invited Turkey and Qatar to a Paris meeting in mid-July 2014 to discuss a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The move drew criticism from the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, who claimed that the United States was attempting to sideline them.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinian Authority Blasts Kerry for ‘Appeasing’ Qatar, Turkey at Ramallah’s Expense,” Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Palestinian-Authority-blasts-Kerry-for-appeasing-Qatar-Turkey-at-Ramallahs-expense-369091.

Europe

In May 2006, after Hamas won Palestinian Authority legislative elections, Sweden granted a visa to PA Refugee Minister Atef Adawan, a Hamas member, to attend a conference in Sweden. After the conference, Adawan allegedly travelled to Norway where he met with Kaare Eltervaag, the head of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry's Middle Eastern affairs. Afterwards, he travelled to Germany where he met with Bundestag representative Detlef Dzembritzki, a member of the Social Democratic Party.“Hamas Minister meets German MEP thanks to Swedish visa,” European Jewish Congress, May 18, 2006, http://www.eurojewcong.org/20/480-hamas-minister-meets-german-mep-thanks-to-swedish-visa.html.

International community at large

The so-called Quartet of Middle East Peacemakers, (the United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations) issued a list of three demands in 2006 for Hamas to meet before it would receive international recognition: recognize Israel, renounce violence, and adhere to past agreements.“Quartet: Hamas Must Change Policy,” CNN, January 31, 2006, http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/01/30/hamas.funding/. The global community has largely adhered to these conditions, although Russia has reached out to the Hamas government.

Media Coverage

  • Arab media

    English-language Arab media may focus more on the plight of the Gazans than in Western media, but Hamas is typically recognized as a militant...
  • Media intimidation

    During the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in July 2014, numerous reports alleged that Hamas restricted media coverage of its...
  • Western media

    Though the United States labels Hamas a terrorist organization, media coverage of the group largely replaces the “terrorist” label with...
  • Israeli media

    Israeli media tend to report on Hamas in line with the Israeli government’s designation of the group, namely, referring to Hamas as a terrorist...

Rhetoric

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Sami Abu Zuhri, Spokesman, March 8, 2016

“Hamas congratulates the three heroic operations this evening, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, and considers this proof of the failure for all these theories to abort the Intifada (uprising), which will continue until the realization of its goals…Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the Intifada.”Jack Moore, “Hamas Hails Surge of Israel Attacks That Left U.S. Tourist Dead as ‘Heroic,’” Newsweek, March 9, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/hamas-lauds-surge-israel-attacks-killed-us-tourist-heroic-435009.

Husam Badran, Spokesman, March 3, 2016

“The next phase of the ‘Jerusalem intifada’ will cause great fear among settlers, who will no longer enjoy security… In the next days, the West Bank's settlers will witness additional surprises from Hamas.”Maayan Groisman, “Hamas: Infiltrations into Israeli settlements to manifest the next phase of the 'intifada,’” Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-Infiltrations-into-Israeli-settlements-to-manifest-the-next-phase-of-the-intifada-446905.

Ismail Haniyeh, Deputy Leader, March 2016

“We will continue along the path of resistance in all its aspects, including the armed struggle.”Jack Khoury, “Hamas Denies Links With Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Elsewhere,” Haaretz, March 23, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.710423.

Hossam Badran, spokesman, August 2015

“The resistance efforts are carried out by individual actors in the West Bank, and the shooting and stabbing of soldiers and settlers represent a significant change that will have implications for the future. Hamas supports these operations and encourages their perpetrators. It believes that their continuation is an important step for ensuring that dealings with the Israeli occupation return to their natural status, as a prelude to an overall direct confrontation.”Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas: Israel security measures won’t stop attacks on settlers,” Al-Monitor, August 25, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/08/west-bank-hamas-armed-attacks-israel-security-measures.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=32314a85b0-August_26_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-32314a85b0-102352589.

Anonymous Hamas official, August 2015

“We’ve never taken sides, but we have our say on what’s happening. Iran is a friend. It was once a very close friend, and we don’t forget that. But today there are efforts to normalize ties once again. This is facing some hurdles from both sides.”“Ali Hashem, “Hamas caught between Tehran and Riyadh,” Al-Monitor, August 23, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/08/iran-hamas-ties-saudi-arabia.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=fa9f4c6af6-August_24_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-fa9f4c6af6-102352589.

Abu Almajd, Qassam Brigades member, August 2015

On the unveiling of a Hamas-designed dirt road near the Gaza-Israel border:

“We built this road in spite of the Jews. Now we are closer to the Jews, only meters between. The Jews’ road is straight, and the Jakar road is straight. We can watch each other during cease-fires and during wars.”Jodi Rudoren, “A Dirt Road in Gaza, Devised by Hamas as a Message to Israel,” New York Times, August 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/world/middleeast/a-dirt-road-in-gaza-intended-to-send-a-message.html.

Sami Abu Zuhri, March 2015

“All the Israeli parties are alike to us. They may disagree on many things but what unite them is their constant denial of the rights of the Palestinians and their will to continue the aggression against our people.” “Exit polls show Israel rivals in dead heat,” Al Jazeera, March 18, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/israel-likud-zionist-union-neck-neck-150317200757434.html.

Bassem Naim, political bureau deputy chief, March 2015

“Iran reconfirmed its support for the resistance during the meeting, thus restoring warmth to the relationship between Hamas and Iran, which had cooled due to regional events.”Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas hopes to expand regional relations,” Al-Monitor, March 26, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/hamas-region-relations-saudi-arabia-egypt.html.

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