The history of Hamas: what it is, what it wants, and which states it is supported by

Elizabeth Smith

Hamas is a word that has been terrorizing states in the West of the world and Israel for years. Recently it has been returning to the front pages of all national and international newspapers. Many people, then, are asking, “But what is Hamas? What does it want from the State of Israel?”.

The history of Hamas: what it is, what it wants, and who the key people are

Hamas stands for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, or the Islamic Resistance Movement. It was founded in 1987 in Palestine and is based in Gaza.

It is a political and paramilitary organization that is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the U.S., Israel, Canada and Japan.

Placed in the extreme right wing branch, Hamas follows Sunni, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist and nationalist ideology.

Currently, this organization occupies the Gaza Strip, territory disputed by Palestine and Israel, and for years has waged a political ideological war to regain the territories they claim were occupied by the State of Israel.

Hamas has a well-branched hierarchy that for convenience we will divide into a political wing and military wing. The former is represented by leader Ismail Haniya, who for a little over a year also headed the PNA (Palestinian National Authority).

The second, on the other hand, is the one that frightens the Israeli government and the Western states on our planet the most: the military wing. At its head is a man considered impregnable: Mohammed Deif, commander of the Ezzedin al Qassam Brigades.

International relations: from political to economic alliances

Hamas has maintained and maintains political relations with numerous states that have espoused the cause. Or with states that have found a common enemy: Israel. Major allies in the Middle East, both political and economic, certainly include Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The latter, however, after the Abraham Agreements sponsored by former U.S. President Donald Trump, has moderated its stance by trying to bring the two sides involved in the conflict into dialogue.

Support for the cause has also come from many other Arab countries although in many cases there has been no talk of a real alliance precisely because Hamas has been considered a terrorist organization.

For that reason, when speaking of some Arab nations, one should use the conditional tense. It is well known that many Arab countries have political and trade alliances with Western Nations and therefore explicitly supporting Hamas could become a problem.

A particular case involving Hamas’ political alliances is that of Iran. Most Iranians and the Iranian government belong to the minority branch of Islam, namely Shiism.

Between Sunnis and Shiites, relations are very tense and in some cases have even resulted in armed conflict. Having Israel as a common enemy, however, has led the world, and the Middle East more generally, to witness a case more unique than rare. Namely, the support of a Shiite nation for a Sunni political and paramilitary organization.

Iran’s admiration for Hamas was confirmed on Oct. 7, 2023, the day on which the attacks that started from the Gaza Strip and headed toward Israel occurred.

From regional conflict to international conflict

The international community is closely and fearfully following developments in this war as it could become global in scope.

Although the possibility of a third world war is still a long way off, the greatest concern is that many states, both in military and ideological conflict with the West, may follow the Hamas model and take advantage of the chaotic war situation.

There are also fears of a real risk of attacks on Israelis residing in various nations around the world, which would suggest, at this point, a real war being fought on several fronts.

Read also: Hamas attack, Israel declares the state of war. Netanyahu: “It will be a long conflict”

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