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What Is Hamas, and Why Did It Attack Israel?



The recent deadly attack on Israel by Hamas marks yet another episode in the longstanding conflict between these two adversaries. This attack resulted in significant casualties, with reports suggesting around 700 Israeli fatalities, and in response, Israeli airstrikes have inflicted severe damage in the Gaza Strip, leading to a tragic loss of lives, including children.


What is Hamas?


Hamas is a political organization that currently governs the Gaza Strip. It was established in 1987 during an uprising against Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The name "Hamas" is an acronym for an Arabic phrase meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement."


While several countries, including Israel, the US, and EU nations, label Hamas or its military wing, the Al Qassam brigades, as terrorist entities, others like Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon view it as a legitimate governing body.


Israel and Hamas: A History of Conflict


Since its formation, Hamas has been in a tumultuous relationship with Israel. Throughout the years, they have been involved in several wars, with Hamas firing thousands of rockets at Israel, resulting in casualties on both sides.


The root of the conflict dates back to post-World War II when Israel was established. Palestinian groups, including Hamas, view this as a theft of their homeland by the Western powers. Supporters of Israel argue the region is the ancestral land of the Jewish people, tracing their connection back thousands of years.


Israel's occupation of territories not originally designated for them by the UN in 1947 has also fueled resentment. Though Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it continues to occupy the West Bank, where they have set up numerous Jewish settlements. This action has faced criticism from global bodies like the United Nations Security Council.


The Road to Governance


Hamas, initially not part of the political process, participated in elections in 2005. By 2006, they managed to secure a significant number of seats, leading to an internal conflict with the Fatah party and their eventual control of Gaza. This takeover resulted in blockades by Egypt and Israel and set the stage for the first Gaza-Israel war in 2008.


The Hamas Charter and its Ambitions


Hamas's founding charter declared Palestine as an Islamic endowment and urged Muslims to reclaim it through jihad. This essentially meant the end of Israel and the establishment of Palestine as an Islamic state. While initially rejecting the idea of a two-state solution, reports from 2017 suggest a rework of the charter that accepts a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and removes certain sections perceived as antisemitic.


Human Rights Concerns


Both Hamas and Israel face accusations of human rights abuses. Hamas's reported actions include executions, abductions, torture, and curbing freedoms of its citizens. They have also been accused of using human shields by placing military assets in densely populated areas. Israel, on the other hand, has been accused of enforcing a system of "apartheid" against the Palestinians, unlawfully seizing land, and resorting to disproportionate violence.


The Current Conflict


The situation in the region has been tense recently, with reports of attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers and plans for new settlement constructions in the occupied West Bank. Incidents like the police raid on the al Aqsa mosque have added to the tension. There have also been terror attacks within Israel, escalating the situation.


Moreover, diplomatic movements like potential peace talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia might have influenced the current scenario. Such a deal could shift power balances in the region, potentially reducing Iran's influence, a close ally of Hamas.


The recent attacks are an amalgamation of historical tensions, recent provocations, and the ever-evolving geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

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