Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic organization, with an associated military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East including Qatar.
What is Hamas?
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political party and militant group that has waged war on Israel since its 1987 formation, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks. It seeks to exchange Israel with a Palestinian government. It also oversees Gaza independently of the Palestinian Authority, but it may have just create a way to reconcile its differences with the other major Palestinian faction.
Hamas’ charter calls for the obliteration of Israel. Though Hamas does not recognize Israel’s legitimacy, in 2011 it committed to a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. It’s not clear whether Hamas could reconcile itself to the existence of Israel.
Hamas led the charge in using suicide bombings against Israel in the 1990s and 2000s, though in recent years it has shifted to rockets and mortars as its weapons of choice. The group also offers Palestinians a vigorous network of social services, which it established as an alternative to deeply corrupt PA institutions.
In 2006, Hamas won a minor majority of the seats in the Palestinian Authority legislative elections. But Hamas refused to accept earlier deals that the PA had made with Israel, leading it to de facto split from the PA and to rule Gaza independently from the West Bank-based PLO.
Unity talks between Hamas and the PLO have broken down repeatedly. That means there is no united Palestinian authority, complicating peace talks significantly. However, this may have changed on April 23rd, when Hamas and the PA agreed to a form a shared government within five weeks and hold elections in six months.