Fact Sheet: Hamas

Israel: Agreement with Hamas on prisoner swap deal

Israel and Hamas have arrived at a prisoner swap deal that will secure the discharge of abducted Israel soldier Gilad Shalit. The deal conveys the true balance b/w all considerations. A number of Palestinian prisoners will be freed in substitution for the release of Israeli soldier.

Gilad Shalit born 28 August 1986 is a Israeli – French citizen and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier. On 25 June 2006, he was captured inside Israel by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid via underground tunnels near the border with Gaza. The Hamas militants held him for over five years, until he was released on 18 October 2011.

Here is a background on Hamas

What is Hamas?

  • Hamas refers to Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya or “Islamic Resistance Movement”. The Arabic word Hamas also means devotion and zeal in the path of Allah.
  • This Islamic Resistance Movement was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising). Hamas has an armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades and currently controls Gaza Strip.

Control of Gaza Strip

Hamas won the last Palestinian legislative elections, held in 2006. It defeated the Fatah movement, which dominates the PLO. But this victory of Hamas plunged the Palestinians into a crisis because of the international boycott of Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority’s Western sponsors demanded the group renounce violence and recognise Israel but Hamas refused. In 2007, Hamas took complete control of the Gaza Strip in a brief war with security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas accused Abbas of conspiring against it. Abbas describes what happened as a coup. Hamas has deepened its control of the Gaza Strip, building its own bureaucracy and security forces.

Since June 2007 Hamas has governed the Gaza portion of the Palestinian Territories.

Philosophy of Hamas:

Hamas believes the Palestinians must use armed resistance in their national struggle with Israel. It opposes the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s strategy of trying to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The group’s founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel. However, Hamas has previously said that it would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel together with a long-term truce as a “transitional solution”.

Why it is seen as terrorist organization?

Due to its hostility towards Israel, Western powers including the United States and the European Union view the group as a terrorist organisation. Hamas launched waves of suicide bombings against Israelis in the 1990s and during the second Intifada, which erupted in 2000.

Position in regional and geopolitics

The European Union, the United States, Canada, Israel and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, while nations such as Russia, Turkey and Switzerland do not. Hamas is today part of a regional alliance comprising Iran, Syria and the Shi’ite Islamist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which all broadly oppose U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Palestinian Authority has the support of the European Union, the United States and its Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia. Regional politics is one of the factors complicating efforts to reconcile the factions in a way that would reunite the Palestinian territories under one administration.

On May 4, 2011, Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation agreement that provides for “creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government” prior to national elections scheduled for 2012.