Hamas an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, during the first Intifada. The founding sheikh was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In 1992, Hamas’ military branch was founded, named Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, named after a Palestinian nationalist. Yahya Ayyash, a Hamas bomb-maker known as the “Engineer” who was killed by the Shin Bet in 1996 has also taken on venerated status in Hamas lore, and members often refer to themselves as “Students of Ayyash.
Hamas’ fundamental beliefs are simple. They believe in the absolute authority of Islam in all aspects of life, and that resisting the “enemy” (i.e. Israel) is a religious duty required of all Muslims. Hamas’ charter states that their goal is to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Hamas does not recognize Israel, and believes that all of Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rightfully belongs to the Palestinian people. While Hamas has offered that it will “settle” for the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for peace with Israel, many Israelis are sceptical that any true peace can be achieved with Hamas. In fact, Hamas never talks of “peace,” but only of a “hudna”—a temporary truce—leading many in Israel to believe that should their government accept such an offer, it would only be a matter of time before Hamas set out to realize its original goal and occupy all of Israel.
They believe the land is non-negotiable, and Hamas’ charter calls loudly and clearly for the destruction of the Israeli state and an establishment of an Islamist government in its place. Hamas has claimed over and over that there can be no peaceful negotiations with Israel, only jihad (“holy war”).
Hamas pioneered the use of suicide bombings; the first one took place in April, 1993, when two Israeli buses were attacked in front of a coffee shop. As many as 500 people may have been killed by Hamas’ suicide bombings over the years, including those killed in the devastating 2002 Passover attacks. Hamas’ arsenal also includes rocket fire, small-arms fire, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in addition to kidnapping soldiers. Hamas is responsible for the capture and holding of now-famous Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, which occurred in 2006; Shalit’s family waited five years for his return home. Hamas has also been accused of militarizing Palestinian children, including establishing special training camps for the purposes of indoctrination of children as young as kindergarten age.
In January and February of 1985, as Israel began slowly pulling out of Lebanon, a Lebanese sheik announced the official formation of a resistance movement named “Hezbollah,” the name that today is synonymous with Katyusha rockets and terror. Hezbollah was founded in order to combat what the Lebanese perceived as Israeli occupation; even though Israel withdrew most of its troops, Hezbollah objected to the soldiers stationed in a “security zone” in southern Lebanon. Between 1982 and 2000, Hezbollah, which means “party of God,” waged guerrilla warfare against the IDF, attacking and kidnapping soldiers
Hezbollah and Iran are closely linked, the latter donating a tremendous amount of aid, weapons, and money to Hezbollah. Hezbollah has emerged as a well-funded, highly-organized terrorist group, evolving from a primitive cell to an organization with sophisticated weaponry and missiles. Hezbollah’s political arm is influential in Lebanese politics, and Hezbollah enjoys wide support among the general Lebanese population, especially within the Shiite community.
The group has been accused of some of the worst atrocities in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the suicide truck bombings of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the wave of kidnappings of Westerners in the 1980s, known as the Lebanese hostage crisis; the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847; an attack on the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992; and countless attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Hezbollah is defined as a terrorist organization by many countries, including the European Union. The goal of Hezbollah is to eradicate the Jewish state. None of the leaders within the movement recognize Israel, and they have accused fellow Arabs in the Palestinian Authority of betrayal for agreeing to move forward with the peace process. Hezbollah justifies their attacks on Israel by claiming Israel unjustly occupies some of their territories and is holding Lebanese citizens prisoners.
Hezbollah attacks were the main cause of Israel entering into a second war with Lebanon in 2006. Hezbollah had been conducting cross-border raids, killing and kidnapping soldiers, and firing rockets into Israeli towns. Though Israel responded with a mighty military effort, the “asymmetrical warfare” practiced by Hezbollah members, mostly in the form of devastating Katyusha rockets, made it difficult for Israel to uproot the organization completely. While Hezbollah could not very effectively invade and conquer another country, what its army lacks in military strength it more than makes up for with deadly guerrilla tactics.