Factsheet by the Pinsker Centre
Who are Hamas?
Hamas is an Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip. This means the ministries of Education, Health, etc, are all Hamas. Hamas is an Islamic extremist group that believes in Sharia law. Hamas’s 1988 charter states: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea”- i.e., “the annihilation of Israel. The charter says: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.” Hamas violence derailed the Oslo Peace Process between Israel and the PLO during the 1990s. They were responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 Israelis through suicide bombings and other attacks.
Source: The Times of Israel
What happened on October 7th?
Hamas carried out one of the worst terror attacks in world history and the worst suffered by Israel resulting in more than 1,400 dead and 3,700+ wounded.
Hamas Previous attacks on Israel prior to October 2023
Since it seized power in Gaza in 2007, Hamas has provoked multiple major confrontations with Israel, including a 22-day war in 2008-2009; an eight-day war in 2012; a 50-day war in 2014; a series of coordinated attacks in 2018 and 2019; and an 11-day war in May 2021. Prior to October 2023, Hamas had killed approximately 25 U.S. citizens and was holding two hostages plus the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. Hamas’ 2023 attack represents the most lethal terrorist attack in Israel’s history. The Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, claimed the lives of 22 citizens from the United States, 17 from Britain, 18 from Thailand, 10 from Nepal, 10 from France, seven from Argentina, and others.
Source: Le Monde
Why Does Hamas Control the Gaza Strip?
Before the 1967 war, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. After Israel’s victory, the county took control of the Gaza Strip. In 2005, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon controversially made the decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Strip, removing every Israeli town, citizen, soldier and grave. The Palestinian Authority (PA) ruled Gaza for two years, until 2007, when Hamas waged a brief but bloody and violent war against them. Hamas overthrew the PA, and quashed all political dissent. Since then, Hamas and other terrorist groups backed by Iran, have invested resources into launching thousands of rockets and mortars towards Israel, from the Gaza strip.
What is the relationship between Hamas and the other Palestinian factions Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that claim to rule the Palestinians?
Hamas and Fatah are the dominant players in Palestinian politics. Fatah is based in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both seek to lead the Palestinian people. For years, they have failed to reconcile their differences and hold elections. Fatah is the party that controls the PA, which was created in 1994 to be the government of the West Bank and Gaza. However, when Hamas seized power in 2007, it violently ejected Fatah and the PA from Gaza.
Why do Hamas use Human Shields?
In order to gain the sympathy of the International community and create impossible choices for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Hamas Terrorists use children as human shields, fighting battles in high densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip. These Human Shields take the form of Palestinian civilians, especially women and children. The Washington Post has previously reported that Al Shifa Hopital had become the “de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders who can be seen in the hallways and offices”.
How does Hamas treat Palestinians?
Hamas diverts international assistance to build its terrorist infrastructure – Hamas recently released a video of themselves destroying water pipes top be used as rockets. UNWRA recently tweeted that its humanitarian aid resources in Gaza were stolen. This impedes economic development and contributes to the humanitarian and environmental crisis in Gaza. The group restricts the rights of women and Christians and treats homosexuality as a crime. Hamas uses civilians as human shields, hiding terror tunnels, weapons factories, and operations centres under schools and in densely populated civilian areas. The United Nations (UN) has called on Hamas to “cease immediately” these violations of international law.
Are Hamas designated as a terrorist organisation?
The United States designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in 1977, freezing its U.S.- based assets, barring members from entering the country, and banning the provision of “material support or resources.” The U.S. government subsequently sanctioned Hamas-related charities and senior Hamas members and blocked funds related to Hamas activity.
Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 15 European states have also sanction some or all of Hamas.
Who are the leaders of Hamas?
Hamas leaders are dispersed across Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Gaza and Lebanon.
Ismail Haniyeh, chief of the political bureau based in Qatar
Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy political chief who splits his time between Qatar, Iran, Turkey, and Lebanon
Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades presumed to be in Gaza
Khaled Mashal, former leader of Hamas based in Qatar, recently called for global “Day of Jihad”
Khaled Qaddoumi, Hamas representative to the Islamic Republic of Iran
How does Hamas get its funding and weapons?
Countries supporting Hamas:
Iran reportedly supplies $100 million in financial and military support annually. Hamas officials praise Iran for sending “cash, equipment and [military] expertise” and longrange rockets to strike Israel.
Qatar reportedly contributed more than $150 million to Hamas in 2019, $100 million in 2020, and $360 million in 2021. Qatar now funds Hamas with an estimated $120 million per year. It claims to support the Gaza government, not the terrorists.
Turkey, Malaysia, Algeria and Kuwait also provide financial, military, diplomatic and political support to Hamas.
What is Iran’s Role in the Attack?
The plot to attack Israel is part of an Iranian strategy to encircle Israel with armed groups, instigate turmoil and carry out acts of terror. The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) helped plan and execute the massacre. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Iran’s support for Hamas makes it “complicit” in the October 7th attack.