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. Hamas or its military wing is designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and the United States. In Jordan Hamas is banned. The United Kingdom has proscribed Hamas's military wing, but does not list Hamas as a whole as a terrorist organization. It is not considered a terrorist organization by Iran, Russia, Turkey, China, and Qatar.
Based on the principles of Islamism gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded sometime in 1988 soon after the First Intifada broke out, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which in its Gaza branch had been non-confrontational towards Israel, refrained from resistance, and was hostile to the PLO. Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin stated in 1987, and the Hamas Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group has later stated that it may accept a 10-year truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders and allows Palestinian refugees from 1948, as well as their descendants, to return to what is now Israel.
The military wing of Hamas has launched attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Tactics include suicide bombings, and since 2001, rocket attacks. Hamas’s rocket arsenal has evolved from short range, homemade Qassam rockets, to long range weapons that have reached major Israeli cities including Tel Aviv and Haifa. The attacks on civilians were condemned as war crimes and crimes against humanity by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.
In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. Following the elections, the Quartet (the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union) made future foreign assistance to the PA conditional upon the future government's commitment to non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas rejected those changes, which led to the Quartet suspending its foreign assistance program and Israel imposing economic sanctions on the Hamas-led administration. In March 2007, a national unity government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was briefly formed, but this failed to restart international financial assistance. Tensions over control of Palestinian security forces soon erupted in the 2007 Battle of Gaza, after which Hamas took control of Gaza, while its officials were ousted from government positions in the West Bank. Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that Fatah forces were no longer providing security there. In 2011, Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation agreement that provides for creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government. Progress has stalled, until an April 2014 agreement to form a compromise unity government, with elections to be held in late 2014.
In 2006, Hamas used an underground cross-border tunnel to abduct the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, holding him captive until 2011, when he was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Since then, Hamas has continued building a network of internal and cross-border tunnels, which are used to store and deploy weapons, shield militants, and facilitate cross-border attacks. Destroying the tunnels was a primary objective of Israeli forces in the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.