Hamas: Its Origins and Its Future

The story of the terrorist group started long before October 7.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: Some have become all too familiar with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas after its October 7 attack, but the story begins decades before.

Origins: Hamas was founded in 1987, during the first intifada (violent uprising) and started as an offshoot of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood.

Ideology: Its founding charter established the entire land of Israel — what they call Palestine — as an Islamic Waqf under total religious rule. To achieve this goal, it endorsed the use of violence. Its slogan: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

  • Also: It opposes the existence of any State of Israel and the presence of any Jews in the land. One section of the charter reads: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Gaining prominence: Hamas became a central player in Palestinian politics during the peace process (1993-2000). It opposed the steps being taken by Yasser Arrafat and the Fatah party to make peace with Israel, and began a suicide bombing campaign to disrupt the peace talks.

Second intifada: After the failed peace process, Hamas took a leading role in the second intifada, which featured more than 130 suicide bombings of targets in Israel. It lead the Israeli public’s to shift to the right.

  • More: It also precipitated the Israeli withdraw from Gaza. After an election and a brief civil war, Hamas took full control of the strip in 2007.

Governance: While in power, Hamas launched multiple small rounds of fighting with Israel. It also spent billions on building a tunnel system between 350 and 450 miles long — in a territory that is only 141 square miles. It was in preparation to launch its first real war against Israel.

Future: Hamas is now fighting for its life. Almost 80% of its brigades have been destroyed in Israel’s war to remove it from power and deplete its military capabilities. The best case scenario for Hamas is where a technocratic Palestinian Authority government, inclusive of Hamas, takes control of Gaza. The worst case scenario is Israel’s “total victory” over Hamas.