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A Look at Islamic Militant Group Hamas

The Associated Press, USA
Aug. 21, 2003 • Friday August 22, 2003

A look at the Islamic militant group Hamas, which abandoned a cease-fire after Israel killed its political leader and spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab Thursday.

• Goal: An Islamic-ruled Middle East in which the Jewish state of Israel would be eliminated. Jews would be permitted to live in the Islamic nation as protected residents. In recent years, Hamas leaders have said they would consider a truce if Israel pulls out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

• Methods: Since it was founded in 1987, Hamas has dispatched its believers to kill hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers with suicide bombings, remote-controlled bombs and gun attacks. Hamas suicide bombers have played a prominent role in the current conflict.

• Structure: Hamas leaders say the organization is divided into two separate parts: the military wing, called Izzedine al-Qassam, an underground movement responsible for attacks; and the political wing, in charge of Hamas public activity. The U.S. government has declared Hamas a terrorist organization and Israel says there is no difference between the two wings.

• Response: In 35 months of fighting, Israel repeatedly targeted leaders of Izzedine al-Qassam, but largely left the group’s politicians alone. Ismail Abu Shanab, a Hamas spokesman killed in an Israeli missile strike Thursday, was the third member of Hamas’ political wing to be killed in the past two years.

• Support: Funding comes through contributions from the Arab world and Muslims elsewhere, including the United States. In Palestinian areas, especially in Gaza, Hamas has solidified its position by establishing social services, including kindergartens and schools.

• Founder: Sheik Ahmed Yassin, recognized as the Hamas spiritual leader. A quadriplegic since a childhood accident, Yassin inspires Hamas members with Islamic preaching. Imprisoned by Israel, he was released in 1997 as part of a deal that followed an abortive Israeli attempt to kill a Hamas operative in Jordan, Khaled Mashaal.

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