Hamas is an Islamist militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ two significant political parties. It governs more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The group is, however, best known for its armed resistance to Israel. On October 7, it launched a surprise attack on multiple Israeli towns, killing scores of civilians and taking hostages.
Dozens of countries have designated Hamas a terrorist entity, although some apply this label only to its military wing. Read on for answers to top questions on the movement.
What Are Hamas’s Origins?
A spin-off of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1980s, Hamas took over Gaza after defeating its rival political party, Fatah, in 2006 elections.
Iran provides it with material and financial support. Fatah, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and rules in the West Bank, has renounced violence.
Hamas’s unwavering hostility toward Israel and the split in Palestinian leadership have diminished prospects for stability in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
How Is Hamas Funded?
As a designated terrorist organisation, Hamas is cut off from official assistance the US and the EU provide to the PLO in the occupied West Bank.
Today, Iran is one of the Islamist militant group’s biggest benefactors, offering funds, weapons and training. The country was quick to praise the group’s latest attack on Israel.
Although Turkey insists it only supports Hamas politically, it has been accused of funding the group’s terrorism, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
How Dire Is Gaza’s Economic Situation?
Israel and Egypt largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip in 2006-07, imposing substantial restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.
The two countries maintain a blockade today, compelling at least a million Gazan Palestinians to rely on international aid. The ongoing conflict is almost certain to exacerbate the poverty.
The Rafah Border Crossing, which remains the only potential exit for most of the 2.3 million Palestinians in the strip, is expected to reopen today to allow aid in.
How Do Palestinians View Hamas?
The political bifurcation of Gaza and the West Bank is widely unpopular. A June 2023 poll showed one-third of Palestinians consider it one of the most damaging development.
The same poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found more than half of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank would back Hamas’s Haniyeh in a presidential election.
Just one-third of respondents would vote for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the PCPSR poll.