What is Hamas? The group that rules the Gaza Strip has fought several rounds of war with Israel

by Michael Nguyen
Hamas Overview

Hamas, the governing entity in the Gaza Strip since 2007, launched a recent incursion into Israeli territory, resulting in casualties and hostages. This audacious breach of the border has not only startled Israel and its allies but has also prompted inquiries regarding Hamas’ capabilities and strategic objectives.


Established in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee residing in Gaza, Hamas emerged during the initial intifada, characterized by widespread protests against Israel’s occupation. The acronym “Hamas” stands for the Islamic Resistance Movement, reflecting its origins and early affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent Sunni group founded in Egypt during the 1920s.

Hamas has consistently declared its intent to eliminate Israel and has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other lethal assaults on both civilians and Israeli soldiers. It has been classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997, with similar designations from the European Union and other Western nations.

Hamas secured victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections and subsequently seized control of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, challenging the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. This authority, predominantly influenced by the rival Fatah movement, administers semi-autonomous regions within the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In response to the Hamas takeover, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, regulating the movement of people and goods in and out of the region, citing the need to prevent weapon development by the group. This blockade has inflicted severe economic hardship on Gaza’s populace, with Palestinians alleging collective punishment by Israel.

Over time, Hamas has received support from Arab and Muslim nations like Qatar and Turkey, and more recently, it has drawn closer to Iran and its allies.


The founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a paraplegic who used a wheelchair, spent years in Israeli detention and oversaw the establishment of the group’s military wing, which executed its first suicide attack in 1993. Israeli forces targeted Hamas leaders over the years, ultimately assassinating Yassin in 2004.

Following Yassin’s demise, Khaled Mashaal, an exiled Hamas member who survived an earlier Israeli assassination attempt, assumed leadership of the group.

Presently, Yehia Sinwar, located in Gaza, and Ismail Haniyeh, residing in exile, serve as Hamas’ leaders. They realigned the group’s leadership with Iran and its allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Consequently, many of the group’s leaders have relocated to Beirut.


Hamas has consistently advocated violence as a means to liberate Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation, coupled with its call for the annihilation of Israel. Throughout its history, Hamas has executed suicide bombings and launched tens of thousands of increasingly potent rockets from Gaza into Israel. It also established a network of tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt for weapons smuggling and constructed attack tunnels extending into Israel.

In recent times, Hamas had seemed more focused on governing Gaza rather than actively attacking Israel.


In recent years, Israel has brokered peace agreements with Arab nations without making significant concessions regarding its conflict with the Palestinians. Furthermore, the U.S. has been endeavoring to facilitate an accord between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a staunch adversary of Hamas’ Iranian supporters.

Meanwhile, Israel’s newly formed right-wing government has been working to solidify Israeli settlements in the West Bank, despite Palestinian opposition.

Hamas leaders assert that an Israeli crackdown on militants in the West Bank, ongoing settlement construction (considered illegal by the international community), the detention of thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails, and the persistent blockade of Gaza collectively compelled their recent attack. They claim that hundreds of their 40,000 fighters participated in the assault, while Israel estimates the group to have around 30,000 fighters and possesses an arsenal of rockets, including those with a range of approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles), alongside unmanned drones.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hamas Overview

What is Hamas, and when was it founded?

Hamas, an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee residing in Gaza. It emerged during the first intifada, marked by widespread protests against Israel’s occupation.

How has Hamas been involved in violence?

Hamas has consistently advocated violence as a means to liberate occupied Palestinian territories and has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on both civilians and Israeli soldiers.

What is the international stance on Hamas?

The U.S. State Department designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 1997, a classification shared by the European Union and other Western countries.

Who are the current leaders of Hamas?

Presently, Yehia Sinwar in Gaza and Ismail Haniyeh in exile serve as Hamas’ leaders. They have aligned the group’s leadership with Iran and its allies.

What are Hamas’ objectives?

Hamas has called for the annihilation of Israel and has carried out various acts of violence to achieve its goal. In recent years, it appeared to shift focus towards governing Gaza rather than launching attacks on Israel.

Why did Hamas escalate its attacks?

Hamas leaders cite reasons such as an Israeli crackdown in the West Bank, ongoing settlement construction, the detention of Palestinian prisoners, and the enduring Gaza blockade as factors that prompted their recent escalation.

How has the international context influenced Hamas’ actions?

Recent peace deals between Israel and Arab countries, along with U.S. efforts to broker an Israel-Saudi Arabia deal, have played a role in shaping the context in which Hamas operates. Additionally, Israel’s right-wing government’s actions in the West Bank have heightened tensions.

What is Hamas’ military capability?

Hamas is estimated to have around 30,000 fighters and possesses an arsenal of rockets, including those with a range of about 250 kilometers (155 miles), as well as unmanned drones.

More about Hamas Overview

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Reader92 October 16, 2023 - 12:24 am

wow, Hamas, like, so much stuff about them. founding in 1987 by Ahmed Yassin, terrorist group, USA and Europe say so too. Leaders change, violence = bad, but why? recent escalation, like, coz of things in West Bank and Israel-Saudi stuff. Drones, rockets, Gaza, all crazy!

PeaceLover45 October 16, 2023 - 2:30 am

Scary situation there. Can you also mention, maybe, efforts for peace, if any? Like, what’s being done to stop all this violence?

DebateMaster October 16, 2023 - 8:18 am

Great breakdown! But, like, who are the major players, except Israel, in all this, you know, Middle East tension? Iran, Saudi Arabia? Like, give me the whole picture!

InfoSeeker77 October 16, 2023 - 12:06 pm

Lots of info here, thanks! Can you, maybe, add more recent events? Like, what’s happening lately in that region?

CuriousMind23 October 16, 2023 - 1:46 pm

Good summary! But, like, tell me more about, like, their goals and stuff. What they really want? And, you know, why so many people support them?


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