Sabtu, Januari 10, 2009
Hamas, the Palestinian political movement that controls Gaza, rose to international prominence following its armed campaign against Israel during the second intifada, or uprising, which began in 2000.
The organisation, founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood movement, had already achieved widespread popularity in the Palestinian territories for its resistance to the Israeli military occupation and for its social programmes.
The pinnacle of that popularity came in January 2006, when the movement won a stunning victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.
But the years since then, marked by a crippling international embargo, internal conflict with rivals Fatah, and Israeli attacks on its members, have proved a testing time for the organisation.
And with Israel launching the bloodiest raids into Gaza in decades, the group faces an uncertain future.
Hamas, which stands for Islamic Resistance Movement, and also means 'zeal' in Arabic, was founded at the beginning of the first intifada by the religious leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
The movement's main goal is to end the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza but its charter states its long term aim is the creation a Palestinian state on what was called Palestine before the creation of Israel in 1948.
It built its popularity on providing support to impoverished Palestinians by constructing schools, hospitals and religious centres.
Unlike many other Palestinian political movements, Hamas has rejected membership of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, calling for its restructuring, and has opposed signing peace agreements with Israel, although it has offered Israel a number of fixed-term truces.
Israel has assassinated several of the group's prominent leaders, most notably Sheikh Yassin in 2004, and Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi, the movement's leader in its stronghold of Gaza, only a few weeks later. Sheikh Yassin, already confined to a wheelchair at the time of his death, had been revered by many Palestinians for his calls for armed struggle and uncompromising views regarding Israel.
Ismail Haniya, the movement's senior figure in Gaza and the deposed prime minister, was a close associate of Sheikh Yassin and once ran his office.
Khalid Meshaal, currently exiled in Syria, has also been a senior political leader of Hamas, since 1995, following the arrest and jailing of Mussa Abu Marzouq, the former Hamas political leader.
Meshaal had led the Kuwait chapter of the organisation, but left the country when Iraq invaded in 1990.
He moved to the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he became head of Hamas and was subject to a failed assassination attempt by Israel.
Hamas is reported to be funded by donations from Palestinian supporters both inside and outside the territories, other Arabs and also the Iranian government.
Its military wing, the Ezzedine al- Qassam Brigades, which is believed to have several thousand members, has also carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Brigades, along with other Palestinian armed groups, have carried out sustained rocket attacks on Israeli towns in the south of the country, often in response to Israeli strikes on Gaza.