Hamas the enigmatic Jihadi of Palestine | By Tariq Aqil 

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Hamas the enigmatic Jihadi of Palestine


Although Israel and Hamas have agreed late Thursday to end their more than ten-day war, which is a war of attrition between them.

Since the birth of Israel there have been many Palestinian resistance groups to challenge the occupation of Israel and offer armed resistance.

The very first such organization was the Popular Front For Liberation of Palestine or PFLP headed by George Habbash, a Palestinian Christian and then of course, the most famous PLO headed by Yasser Arafat and all these groups were mostly secular that operated without injecting any religious ideology in their struggle.

Religious agenda has been injected into the conflict after the birth and rise of the Islamist group called Hamas.

Hamas is based on the ideology and practice of the Islamic fundamentalist political party called the Muslim Brotherhood Movement known as Ikhwan-ul-Muslameen that originated in Egypt in the 1920s.

Hamas is an acronym of Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah or the Islamic Resistance Movement.

This party is the militant nationalist Islamist Movement in the Gaza strip and the West Bank dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic State in the areas called the State of Israel.

Hamas was totally against the secular approach of the PLO and rejected any attempts of reconciliation or peace settlement with Israel asking for the total destruction and annihilation of Israel and the establishment of the State of Palestine in all the areas occupied by Israel.

Today Hamas is very closely allied and tied with the Islamic regimes in Iran and certain factions in Syria.

The 1967 Arab Israel war ended in total defeat for the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the allied Arab countries.

Israel captured the territories of Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights.

In the 1970s activists of the Muslim Brotherhood established a network of clinics and schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In December 1987, at the beginning of the Palestinian Intifada Hamas was formed by the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the religious faction of the PLO.

In its charter of 1988 Hamas announced that Palestine is an Islamic land and cannot be surrendered to non-Muslims and that waging Jihad or holy war against Israel is the religious duty of all Palestinians.

This stance created a rift between PLO and Hamas because the PLO in 1988 had accepted and recognized Israel’s right to exist.

After this Hamas acted independently of other Palestinian resistance organizations creating a lot of friction and animosity between Hamas and other secular groups.

By 1989 Hamas was able to launch violent and destructive attacks on Israel and this resulted in the arrest of many Hamas leaders including Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder of the movement.

A political bureau for international relations and fund raising was formed in Amman, Jordan with Khalid Meshaal as the head and the armed wing was reconstituted as Izz al-Din al-Qassam forces.

Hamas was expelled from Jordan because Jordan accused them of using the Amman office post for military activities in West Bank and Gaza.

In 2001 they established a new headquarters in Damascus and then again moved to Doha, Qatar in 2012. The Hamas military wing has 30000 armed and trained fighters and another 7000 in reserve.

Hamas has been active and successful in launching attacks against Israeli targets in many forms such as firing land to land rockets towards Israeli cities, infiltration into Israeli communities to kill Israeli citizens, Explosive charges against Israeli tanks, ambushes of Israeli soldiers, sending booby trapped boats against Israeli ships, kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and the use of suicide bombers to kill Israelis in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and even in the heavily fortified Israeli towns and cities.

Hamas militants and activists manage to smuggle weapons and ammunition from Egypt using underground tunnels and all activities are controlled by the Hamas headquarters in Gaza.

On March 22, 2004 Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was assassinated and his successor Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi was also killed by the IDF on 17th April 2004.

In 2005 after some heated debate in the Israeli Parliament the Government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to withdraw all Israeli forces from Gaza in a desperate attempt to appease Hamas and get it to stop firing rockets and attacking Israel.

After so many years it is very obvious that Sharon’s plan failed miserably, Hamas rockets have continued to rain down on Israel and the Israeli armed forces have been compelled to invade the area of Gaza a few times in a futile attempt to destroy the fighting capability of Hamas.

In 2007 following a victory in the elections Hamas forcibly and violently seized control of Gaza and threw out all remnants of the Fatah Party headed by President Mahmoud Abbas thus establishing their dictatorial control of Gaza.

In early May 2021 after the incident in Jerusalem tension boiled over once again resulting in the greatest escalation of violence since 2014.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians have resulted in the death of hundreds of Palestinians and countless injured.

Hamas continues to launch rockets into Israel and the Israeli forces continue their brutal reprisals in the form of air strikes.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.