What is Hamas, the terrorist group behind the attack on Israel?

The group was founded during the first Intifada and is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union.

Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, launched an attack on Israel on October 7, killing hundreds of people and taking others hostage. In an unprecedented border violation, the armed group sent fighters inside kibbutzim and against military installations, raising questions about the group’s capabilities and strategy.

What is Hamas?

The group was founded in 1987 during the first Intifada, marked by widespread protests against the Israeli occupation.

The group has vowed to annihilate Israel and has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The EU and other Western countries consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections and, in 2007, took control of the Gaza Strip at the expense of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA, dominated by the rival Fatah movement, administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel responded to Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip by establishing a blockade on the territory, limiting the movement of people and goods. This measure is presented by Israel as essential to prevent the group from obtaining weapons. But this blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy and Palestinians accuse Israel of collective punishment.

Over the years, Hamas has received support from countries such as Qatar and Turkey. Recently, it has moved closer to Iran and its allies.

Who are the leaders of Hamas?

Hamas has at least seven founders, including its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin – a paralyzed man who used a wheelchair. He spent years in Israeli prisons and oversaw the creation of Hamas’ military wing, which carried out its first suicide attack in 1993.

Israeli forces targeted Hamas leaders and assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004. Another founder, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, was killed in Gaza in April 2004.

Khaled Mashaal, an exiled Hamas member who survived an initial assassination attempt by Israel, became the group’s leader shortly thereafter.

Yehia Sinwar, in Gaza, and Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in exile, are the current leaders of Hamas. They realigned the group’s leadership with Iran and its allies, notably Lebanese Hezbollah. Since then, many of the group’s leaders have settled in Beirut.

What does Hamas want?

Hamas has consistently advocated violence as a means to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories and called for the annihilation of Israel.

Hamas has carried out suicide attacks and, over the years, fired tens of thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza. He also set up a network of tunnels from Gaza to Egypt to smuggle weapons, as well as attack tunnels extending into Israel.

In recent years, Hamas seemed to focus more on managing Gaza than attacking Israel.

Why did Hamas launch an attack on Israel now?

In recent years, Israel has concluded peace agreements with Arab countries, without having to make concessions to the Palestinians.

The United States also tried to broker a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a bitter rival of Hamas’s Iranian backers.

Meanwhile, Israel’s new far-right government is working to consolidate Israeli settlements in the West Bank, despite opposition from Palestinians and condemnation from the international community.

Hamas leaders say that the Israeli crackdown on militants in the West Bank, the continued construction of settlements – which the international community considers illegal – the thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails and the continued blockade of Gaza have pushed to attack.

They say hundreds of its 40,000 fighters took part in the assault. Israel, for its part, claims that the group has around 30,000 fighters as well as an arsenal of rockets, some of which have a range of around 250 kilometers, and drones.

This article is originally published on fr.euronews.com

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