Alongside its terrorist activity, the Hamas also conducts civilian and social projects. The Hamas maintains a terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank, and acts to carry out terrorist attacks in the territories and Israel. In addition, the Hamas conducts activities abroad including other parts of the Middle East, in the context of Dawa operations - social and civilian projects, including fundraising (through charity foundations and associations) and the recruitment of operatives. These activities also constitute direct and indirect assistance to the Hamas terrorist operations in Israel and abroad.
HAMAS activists, especially those in the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks--including large-scale suicide bombings--against Israeli civilian and military targets, suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals. In the early 1990s, they also targeted suspected Palestinian collaborators and Fatah rivals. HAMAS increased its operational activity during 2001-2002 claiming numerous attacks against Israeli interests. The group has not targeted US interests-although some US citizens have been killed in HAMAS operations-and continues to confine its attacks to Israelis inside Israel and the territories.
Since the beginning of the last intifada, in September 2000, Hamas has perpetrated 52 suicide attacks, in which 288 Israelis were murdered and 1,646 were wounded. Among the more infamous Hamas suicide bombings and terrorist attacks were (the following is a representative, not exhaustive, list):
- The 1 June 2001 suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv discotheque, in which 21 people were murdered and 120 were wounded;
- The 9 August 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant, in which 15 people were murdered and 130 were wounded;
- The 1 December 2001 double suicide bombing on the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 188 were wounded;
- The 2 December 2001 suicide bombing of a #16 bus in Haifa, in which 15 people were murdered and 40 were wounded;
- The 9 March 2002 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe, in which 11 people were murdered and 54 were wounded;
- The 27 March 2002 suicide bombing of a Netanya hotel on the first night of Passover, in which 30 people were murdered and 140 were wounded;
- The 18 June 2002 suicide bombing of a #32A bus in Jerusalem, in which 19 people were murdered and 74 were wounded;
- The 4 August 2002 suicide bombing of #361 bus at Meron junction, in which nine people were murdered and 50 were wounded;
- The 21 November 2002 suicide bombing of a #20 bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 50 were wounded;
- The 5 March 2003 suicide bombing of a #37 bus in Haifa, in which 17 people were murdered and 53 were wounded;
- The 17 May 2003 suicide bombing in Hebron, in which two people were murdered;
- The 18 May 2003 suicide bombing of a #6 bus in Jerusalem, in which seven people were murdered and 20 wounded;
- The 11 June 2003 suicide bombing of #14A bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and over 100 were wounded;
- The 19 August 2003 suicide bombing of a #2 bus in Jerusalem, in which 23 people were murdered and over 130 were wounded;
- The 9 September 2003 suicide bombing of a hitchhiking post near the IDF base at Tzrifin, in which nine soldiers were murdered and 10 were wounded;
- The 9 September 2003 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe, in which seven people were murdered and 70 were wounded;
- The 29 January 2004 suicide bombing of a #19 bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 44 were wounded;
- The 14 March 2004 double suicide bombing at Ashdod port, in which 10 people were murdered and 16 were wounded.
- On Aug 31, 2004 16 people were killed and 100 wounded in two suicide bombings within minutes of each other on two Beersheba city buses.
In February of 2005, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas convinced Hamas to agree to an informal temporary cease-fire. The cease-fire brought a great reduction in the amount of violence in the region. Hamas honored the cease-fire, but declared that they would not renew the truce when it expired at the end of 2005. Hamas said that Israel carried out targeted assassinations, arrests and airstrikes in violation of the truce.
However, when Hamas won a overwhelming victory in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, some Hamas leaders suggested that they would be willing to enter into a long term truce with Israel. Mahmoud Zahar, one of the leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said that if Israel retreats to is pre-1967 borders and releases Palestinian prisioners, then Hamas would be willing to grant Israel a long term truce. Israel has indicated that they will not deal with Hamas unless the organization renounces violence, recognizes Israel, and admend their charter so that it no longer calls for Israel's destruction.
Tensions Escalate with Israel
On June 9, 2006, a Palestinian family was killed on a Gaza beach. The Palestinians claimed that the victims had been struck by Israeli artillery fire, but Israel denied responsibility for the deaths. Nonetheless, the incident provoked Hamas to call off its truce and intensify rocket fire into southern Israel.
On June 25, members of the Hamas military wing (Izz ad-Din al- Qassam Brigades) and two other groups attacked Israeli forces in Israel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing of the Gaza Strip. Two Israeli soldiers were killed, four wounded, and Gilad Shalit, and IDF corporal, was captured. Two Hamas militants were also reportedly killed in the attack. The raid involved the use of a 300 meter tunnel which allowed approximately 8 Palestinian gunmen to ambush a tank and an empty armored personnel carrier. The captured soldier was the gunner for the tank. Some analysts suggested that Hamas political bureau chief Kalid Mish'al ordered the attack to reassert his power over more "moderate" Hamas officials.
The kidnapers and their supporters insisted that the Israeli soldier be exchanged for some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel. Although the kidnappers initially and specifically demanded the release of women and minors in Israeli custody, their subsequent demands were less precise. Mediators' efforts were hampered by Hamas's demand (specifically that of al-Mish'al) for a simultaneous prisoner swap and by Israel's reluctance to agree to any actions that would appear to be an exchange or concession to the "blackmail" of kidnappings.
On June 27, after unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to secure the kidnapped soldier's release, Israeli forces began a major operation which Israel explained as an effort to rescue the soldier, to deter future Hamas attacks including rocket launches from Gaza into southern Israel, and to weaken, bring down, or change the conduct of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government. Israeli officials claimed that Hamas had crossed a "red line" with the kidnapping and attack within pre-1967 Israel, but said that Israel did not intend to reoccupy Gaza.
On June 28, Hamas officials in the Palestinian Authority allied themselves with the kidnappers by adopting their demands. Israeli officials responded by insisting on the unconditional release of the soldier. On June 29, Israel forces arrested Palestinian (Hamas) cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and other Hamas officials in the West Bank and Jerusalem in what the Foreign Ministry described the action as a "normal legal procedure" targeting suspected terrorists.
In early military operations, Israeli planes bombed offices of PA ministries headed by Hamas, weapons depots, training sites, and access roads; ground forces entered Gaza to locate tunnels and explosives near the border and targeted Hamas offices in the West Bank. After Hamas militants fired an upgraded rocket at the Israeli port city of Ashkelon on July 4, the Israeli cabinet approved "prolonged" activities against Hamas; air and artillery strikes and ground incursions were still taking place in August. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into southern Israel.
As of September 15, 2006 some 200 Palestinians had been killed since operations began after the June 25 kidnapping. Israeli Defense Forces took over some former settlements in Gaza and deployed just beyond the Gaza border in order to make sporadic incursions into Palestinian areas to attack terrorists, rocket launching sites, and tunnels used to smuggle arms into Gaza.
Much of the fighting that took place during the middle and end of 2006 in Gaza occurred between supporters and opponents of the Hamas-led government. The well-armed Palestinian security forces, manned largely by Fatah opponents of the government, repeatedly confronted the Hamas military wing and other armed groups loyal to the government. In an attempt to curb the violence and eradicate the international economic sanctions that had crippled the PA since March 2006, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a unity government on February 8, 2007.
Tensions between the two groups continued to mount, however, and eventually resulted in a new wave of fighting in May 2007. It was reported that armed combatants loyal to Hamas assaulted the Fatah-led Palestinian security forces. Afterwards each side directed their own series of attacks and kidnappings against opposing leaders and officials. The violence intensified in June as Hamas renewed their attacks. By the middle of the month they had seized the Presidential compound, captured the headquarters Fatah's Preventative Security Force, and controlled the majority of Gaza. In contrast, Fatah, which had countered by attacking Hamas strongholds throughout the area, controlled the majority of the West Bank.
In the midst of the conflict Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the unity government and appointed an emergency cabinet under the direction of Salam Fayyad. The international community supported Abbas and announced their intentions to drop the economic sanctions that had been in place for well over a year. Ismail Haniyeh ignored Abbas's decree, citing its legality, and prepared to continue operations as if his government were still in power.
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