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What is Hamas? The Palestinian group behind the Israel attack

The Israeli military has accused Hamas militants of behaving like the Islamic State group as fighting between the two sides continues.
Posted at 8:15 PM, Oct 08, 2023

Tensions between Israel and Hamas have been ongoing for decades.

However, not only did Saturday’s unprecedented attack come without warning, but it also escalated tensions in the Middle East.

“This weekend, Hamas started a war against Israel with the worst massacre of innocent civilians in Israel's history. Hamas was more barbaric and more brutal than ISIS,” said Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari.

The Israeli military has accused Hamas militants of behaving like the Islamic State group as fighting between the two sides continues.

"Hamas behaves like ISIS. I repeat, Hamas behaves like ISIS,” said Hagari.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who served as the organization’s spiritual leader before he was killed by an Israeli missile strike in 2004, founded the Palestinian Islamic militant group in 1987 after the first "intifada,” or Palestinian uprising against Israel.

In Arabic, Hamas means zeal.

Something the world has witnessed since the militant group infiltrated Israeli towns in a surprise attack on Saturday, capturing soldiers, women, and children.

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and has vowed to destroy Israel.

Understanding the history of the Israel-Gaza conflict
Palestinians celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip.

Understanding the history of the Israel-Gaza conflict

Hamas leader cited Saturday's attack as a response to the Gaza blockade, West Bank raids, Al Aqsa violence, settler attacks, and settlement expansion.


Since then, Israel has launched four large military campaigns against Gaza, and Hamas has developed its own rockets to hit Israeli cities with.

Both sides are accused of deliberately targeting civilians.

Several countries, including Israel and the U.S., have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“No country should be expected to live with the fear of the possibility and now the actuality of terrorists crossing the border, coming into people's homes, gunning them down in the street, dragging them across the border, and making hostages—that is intolerable for any democracy,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

But Hamas has backing among many Palestinians, who are increasingly fed up with Israel’s decades-long military occupation of their land. Hamas is also backed by Middle Eastern leaders, including Iran, which provides financial assistance and military support through weapons and training.

Hamas is also a friend to Hezbollah, another militant group in Lebanon that also serves as a political party. It also opposes Israel and has a history of fighting against the Israeli military.

Ultimately, Hamas is strong because the prospects for peace are weak: negotiations for a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for years.

“It is time for an immediate end to the violence and the bloodshed, and it is time to end this blockade and to open a political horizon,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.