What is Hamas? A simple guide to the armed Palestinian group

The move prompted the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn of “a long and difficult war”. Israeli jets are bombing the Gaza Strip, levelling high rises and civilian neighbourhoods.

But what is Hamas, the group at the centre of it all? Here is what to know:

What is the group Hamas?
Hamas stands for the Islamic Resistance Movement and in Arabic means “zeal”.

The group politically controls the Gaza Strip, a territory of about 365sq km (141sq miles) that is home to more than two million people but is blockaded by Israel.

Hamas has been in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007 after a brief war against Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

When was Hamas formed and what is its aim?
The Hamas movement was founded in Gaza in 1987 by an imam, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, and his aide Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi shortly after the start of the first Intifada, an uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.The movement started as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and created a military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to pursue an armed struggle against Israel with the aim of liberating historic Palestine.

It also offered social welfare programmes to Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.

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