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IDF Spokesman January 1993 HAMAS - The Islamic Resistance Movement 1. GENERAL BACKGROUND AND HISTORY The HAMAS (in Arabic, an acronym for "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia" -- Islamic Resistance Movement -- and a word meaning courage and bravery) is a radical Islamic fundamentalist organization which became active in the early stages of the intifada, operating primarily in the Gaza District but also in Judea and Samaria. The HAMAS has played a major role in violent fundamentalist subversion and radical terrorist operations against both Israelis and Arabs, and employs its own "shock troops" ("Al-Suad Al-Ramaya" -- the "throwing arm") for these purposes. The HAMAS makes frequent use of radical Islamic motifs, both in order to broaden its ranks and as a weapon against those whom it defines as its enemies. In its initial period, the movement was headed primarily by people identified with the Muslim Brotherhood in the territories. In the period prior to the intifada, the religious-social "Al-Majama Al-Islami" association in the Gaza District was an important source for the recruitment of radical Islamic elements for the covert terrorist activity of the HAMAS. Many senior members of "Al-Majama" emerged with the outbreak of the intifada as central figures in the HAMAS leadership. They used the existing infrastructure of the association as a basis for semi-covert activity, including the preaching of inflammatory sermons in mosques and the distribution of religious and political leaflets. The HAMAS movement also goes by several other names, which are used primarily to denote the semi-covert activity carried out by its supporters in the territories. Most of these names include the word "Islam", for example: the Islamic Stream ("Al-Tiar Al-Islami"), or the Islamic Trend ("Al-Athja Al-Islami"). In the course of the intifada, HAMAS gained momentum, expanding its activity also in Judea and Samaria to become the dominant Islamic Fundamentalist organization in the territories. It defined its highest priority as actual Jihad (holy war) for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". By its participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to play a central role in the intifada. As a result of its subversive and terrorist activity, HAMAS was outlawed in September 1989. Today, HAMAS is the second most powerful group in the territories, after FATAH. Its influence is felt in all aspects of daily life, and it serves as a lodestone for extremist elements. It is currently the strongest opposition group to the peace process, and is sometimes viewed as threatening the hegemony of the secular nationalists. In the course of the past year, HAMAS has become the leading perpetrator of terrorist activity, second only to FATAH. HAMAS engages in terrorist activity throughout the territories as well as inside the Green Line. It also engages in violent clashes with Palestinian rivals, such as the recent confrontation with FATAH members in the Gaza District in July 1992. Throughout the intifada, there have been many such encounters, in which HAMAS rallied hundreds of people into the streets, some of them armed with guns. 2. IDEOLOGY AND GOALS The basic ideology of HAMAS is founded primarily on the mainstream of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the Islamic Covenant published by HAMAS in August 1988, it defined itself as the "Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood". However, there is a clear distinction in the order of priorities set forth by HAMAS, as opposed to those of the Muslim Brotherhood in the territories prior to the intifada, particularly as regards the question of Jihad. The Muslim Brotherhood in the territories viewed Jihad as a general duty and principle. It maintained that Islam would be established first throughout the Muslim world, only later to be followed by violent Jihad against Israel, in which Palestine, too, would be liberated. HAMAS, on the other hand, stresses Jihad as the sole and immediate means to solve the problem of Palestine. HAMAS defines the transition to the stage of Jihad "for the liberation of all of Palestine" as a personal religious duty incumbent upon every Muslim. At the same time, it utterly rejects any political arrangement that would entail the relinquishment of any part of Palestine, which for it ss tantamout to a surrender of part of Islam. These positions are reflected in the HAMAS Covenant, which was written in the territories, and of course in its activities. The central goal of HAMAS is the establishment of an Islamic state in all of Palestine. The immediate means to achieve this goal is the escalation of the intifada, and ultimately all-out Jihad, with the participation not only of Palestinian Muslims but of the entire Islamic world. 3. STRUCTURE The structure of HAMAS in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria is based on a combination of regional and functional organization. In this framework, several identical, parallel frameworks operate in each region: a. Infrastructure ("Dawa", literally "sermonizing"), which engages in recruitment, distribution of funds, and appointments. b. Popular violence in the framework of the intifada. c. Security ("Aman") -- the gathering of information on suspected collaborators with the authorities. This information is passed on to the "shock committees", who interrogate and then kill the suspects. d. Publications ("A-'Alam") -- leaflets, propaganda, press offices. HAMAS tries to maintain a clear distinction between the covert activity of its various sections and its overt activity, which serves primarily to broaden the ranks of the movement. The major reason for this is HAMAS' desire to increase departmentalization and secrecy, by not identifying itself directly with its public activity. The term generally used by HAMAS to define its overt activity is "Dawa" -- meaning, literally, "sermonizing". This term is also the name given to the HAMAS section whose function is to broaden the movement's infrastructure, to distribute funds and make appointments. In fact, there is a large degree of overlapping (if not total identity) between the two. [Mahmud Rumhi, a senior HAMAS operative from Ramallah who was recently arrested and questioned, defined the Dawa as an apparatus separate from HAMAS, whose function is to create an organizational basis in the mosques and other institutions. According to him, it is a multifaceted organization which maintains direct contact with Ibrahim 'Usha in Jordan, who serves as a spokesman of HAMAS. He also said that there is no direct link between HAMAS and the charity associations. (Here it should be noted that, alongside his senior position in HAMAS, Rumhi, a doctor by profession, also manages the medical center of the charity association in Ramallah and serves as a representative of the London-based Aid Fund for Lebanon and Palestine, which transfers funds to charity associations in the territories affiliated with HAMAS.)] A recent internal HAMAS publication explains the three spheres of Islamic activity, while encouraging greater activity in two: Jihad and public activity. Specifically, it enjoins its followers to become members of existing trade unions and philanthropic associations and to found new ones on order to serve the goals of the movement. Thus, HAMAS is an organization composed of several interdependent levels. The popular-social base is maintained materially by the charity committees and ideologically through instruction, propaganda and incitement delivered in the mosques and other institutions and through leaflets. This base is the source for the recruitment of members into the units which engage in riots and popular violence. Those who distinguish themselves in riots and popular violence sooner or later find their way into the military apparatus, which carries out brutal and violent attacks against Israelis and Palestinians alike. The latter (and their families and relatives, if they are arrested or killed) enjoy the moral and economic backing of the preachers in the mosques, the directors of HAMAS-affiliated institutions, and the charity committees. 4. INTIFADA ACTIVITY HAMAS began to operate in the territories at the beginning of the intifada, at first primarily in the Gaza District and later increasingly also in Judea and Samaria. It claims credit for the outbreak of the intifada and played a major part in its escalation. The organization of HAMAS and its rapid integration into subversive intifada activity was facilitated by the role played by central figures of the "Al-Majama Al-Islami" and by its broad and well-organized base of supporters. HAMAS activity in the course of the intifada can be characterized mainly as follows: a. The concentration of a major part of its activity around the mosques. As spiritual centers which enjoyed relative immunity from the Israeli authorities, these served as convenient locations. Moreover, many HAMAS operatives serve as religious functionaries in the mosques. HAMAS uses the mosques as recruitment centers to broaden its ranks, as a focus for extremist incitement, disturbances and demonstrations, as a center for the distribution of leaflets, and as a venue for organizing terrorist attacks. b. The publication and distribution of leaflets, which serve as a tool for incitement to riot, defining strategy, and instructing the general public, including setting days for memorials and general strikes. The HAMAS leaflets are radical in content and virulent in their wording. Most include verses from the Koran and play on extremist Islamic religious feeling. The major themes are: 1) Preaching Jihad as a means to establish an Islamic state in all of Palestine, while rejecting the right of the State of Israel ("the Zionist entity") to exist. 2) A call to continue and escalate the violent struggle. c. The use of "shock troops" ("Al-Suad Al-Ramaya" -- the "throwing arm") for the violent enforcement of HAMAS directives, such as the boycott of Israeli goods, preventing workers from the territories from going to work in Israel, and enforcing strikes. During the period prior to the intifada, HAMAS members (in its earlier form of the "Al-Majama Al-Islami") operated primarily against local Palestinians, such as moral offenders and criminal elements, in order to purge Muslim society and to prepare it for Jihad against Israel. After the outbreak of the intifada, the same people and new recruits began to assassinate Palestinians. In the course of the intifada, HAMAS operatives have admitted to 43 such attacks, in which 46 Palestinians were killed. On the basis of intelligence information, about 40 more murders of Palestinians can be attributed to HAMAS members. In the course of the intifada, HAMAS operatives also began to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, escalating in nature. At first they resorted primarily to explosive charges and other 'popular' means (firebombs, arson and other property damage). In the course of 1989, they kidnapped and murdered two soldiers (Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon). In December 1990, three Israelis employed in a Jaffa factory were murdered. In 1992, HAMAS operatives displayed even greater daring, especially members of the Iz Al-Din Al-Kassam squads, who fired on security personnel at short range, stabbed two Jews to death in a packing plant in the Gaza District, kidnapped and killed Nissim Toledano, and finally murdered a GSS handler in a safehouse in Jerusalem. These HAMAS 'successes' naturally encouraged members of other organization to try and emulate and even surpass them. In the past year, the number of attacks carried out by HAMAS members has risen dramatically, making it the second most important terrorist organization, after FATAH, and the leading organization in the murder of Israelis by gunfire. From the beginning of the intifada (December 9, 1987) until December 1992, 20 Israelis and one Jewish tourist were killed in HAMAS attacks. During this period, they also assassinated close to 100 Palestinian residents of the territories. The leaflets written and prepared by the HAMAS leadership as well as the sermons preached by its operatives in the mosques have played an important role in these attacks. Thus, periodical HAMAS leaflets calling for a "revolution of knives" have been found on the persons of HAMAS members who stabbed Israelis. Recent HAMAS leaflets call for the use of guns against both security personnel and civilians. The monthly HAMAS leaflets serve as a major tool for clarifying its positions, handing down directives, and incitement -- including riots and attacks against Jews -- with the ultimate goal being the destruction of Israel through holy war. The leaflets of the movement make extensive use of Islamic motifs, interlaced with virulent accusations against the Jews, "the offspring of apes and pigs". Almost all of them end with a call for "Jihad until victory, or martyrdom for the sake of Allah". There has recently been increasing cooperation of the movement with other organizations opposed to the peace process, and they have published joint leaflets against the peace process. 5. LEADERSHIP Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, headed HAMAS until his arrest in May 1989, was responsible for most of the movement's activities: the writing of leaflets, financial affairs, liaison with radical Islamic elements abroad, and supervision of violent and terrorist activity. Under him, a broad organizational network was set up, comprising various functions and local leaders, which directed the political and intifada-related work of the movement: distributing leaflets, organizating riots, enforcing strikes, etc. Following the arrest of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other leading operatives from the Gaza District, the centralized HAMAS leadership in the territories was weakened. It was replaced by a backbone of senior leaders/operatives identified with the movement, who directed its activity in the different regions. They focused primarily on politics, propapagnda, infrastructure, and inter-organizational liaison, while competing with Palestinian nationalists for for election to positions of power in various bodies (such as trade unions). Among the leading figures are Mahmoud Alzhar, Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Hamed Bitawi. Prominent religious leaders identified with HAMAS have recently formed the Association of Religious Sages of Palestine ("Rabtath 'Alma Falestin"), which is to serve as a kind of supreme religious framework and to accord the movement 'legitimacy' through religious rulings that conform with the movement's ideology. HAMAS leaders residing abroad -- in Arab countries (primarily Jordan) and in the West (the U.S., Britain, and others) -- have also recently gained prominence. In this context we should note the movement's growing ties with Iran. 6. FINANCING HAMAS enjoys strong financial backing. In fact, tts rivals claim that this is major reason for its strength. HAMAS receives financial support from unofficial bodies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and recently also from Iran. The amount of money which reaches HAMAS operatives in Judea, Samaria and Gaza annually is estimated at one million dollars. These funds are distributed among the various groups and associations identified with the movement, and from them filter down to the operatives in the field. A broad network of charity associations ("Jamayath Hiriya") and committees ("Lejan Zekath") operates in the territories, on the basis of two Jordanian statutes: the Charity Association and Social Institutions Law, and the Charity Fund-Raising Regulations. HAMAS makes extensive use of many of these charity associations and committees, which (together with the mosques, unions, etc.) also serve as the overt facade of the organization's activity, operating parallel to and serving its covert operations. The movement's ideology (like that of its mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood) attributes great importance to the giving of charity ("zekath", which is also one of the five basic principles of Islam). Giving charity can serve to bring the people closer to Islam -- and, as a result, to broaden the ranks of HAMAS. The network of charity associations serves as a screen for its covert activities, including liaison with the movement's leadership abroad, the transfer of funds to field operatives, and the identification of potential recruits. The great importance which HAMAS attaches to the overt aspect of its operations -- charity and welfare -- has been particularly evident since the extensive arrest and exclusion of many of its operatives. An important aspect of the charity associations and committees is their role as a means for the channeling of funds into the region. While part of these funds is in fact used for charity, it is not always possible to distinguish between the 'innocent' activity of the charity associations and the funding of covert, subversive and terrorist activity. Thus, for example, the associations pay fines and assist the families of operatives who are arrested, or the operatives themselves. Such donations are defined as charity, but are in fact given to the hard and active core of HAMAS. The charity associations can also help in transfering funds to HAMAS through their financial-administrative infrastructure. The methods commonly used to transfer funds are through moneychangers, checks drawn on accounts of operatives and firms abroad, foreign business accounts of economic concerns in the territories, and direct cash transfers from abroad, usually through Western banks (in Britain, the U.S. and Germany). The Islamic Movement in Israel also serves as a channel for the transfer of funds. Most of this money, as far as can be determined, comes from two Islamic welfare organizations abroad (affiliated with HAMAS), though we do not know what their sources are (recent informat˙ion indicates that some money comes from Iran). Such transfers of funds constitute criminal offenses, involving the violation of fiscal and tax laws. 7. OPPOSITION TO THE PEACE PROCESS The teachings of HAMAS utterly reject the peace process, which involves the surrender of "Islamic land" and the recognition of Israel's right to exist on this land. HAMAS has therefore become an important element in the coalition of those opposed to this process -- a coalition formed before the convening of the Madrid Conference. HAMAS has recently become the moving spirit among those opposed to the peace process. It called for a general protest strike in the territories on September 23, 1992 and responded strongly to the dissatisfaction and fears expressed by senior FATAH members associated with the peace process. Central to the alternatives to the peace process presented by HAMAS is the call to escalate the intifada, including the use of firearms, well-trained military activity, and the implementation of Jihad. 8. MILITARY ARM From the outset, alongside the "popular" intifada-related violence on the street level, HAMAS operated a military-terrorist arm, composed of two groups: a. The Palestinian Holy Fighters ("Al-Majahadoun Al-Falestinioun"), a military apparatus for terrorist attacks, especially against Israeli targets. Before the outbreak of the intifada, it engaged primarily in the preparation of the infrastructure for its activity. b. The Security Section ("Jehaz Aman"), which gathered information on suspected collaborators with Israel and other local elements, with the intention of punishing them by the use of violence, including murder. To this end, units were formed within the framework of the "MAJD" -- an Arabic acronym for "Majmouath Jihad u-Dawa" - Holy War and Sermonizing Group), which was in effect the violent operational arm of the Security Section. In the course of the intifada, these groups took on various forms, the latest of which being the Iz al-Din al-Kassam hit squads. "Al-Majahadoun Al-Falestinioun" The groundwork for the founding of "Al-Majahadoun Al-Falestinioun" was laid in 1982 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, together with several operatives of "Al-Majama". This included arms procurement and laying the groundwork for the struggle against Palestinian rivals, to be used later also against Israel. This activity was uncovered in 1984, and Yassin was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was released shortly afterwards as part of the Jibril prisoner exchange (May 1985). Upon his release, Yassin resumed his work of setting up a military apparatus. At first, emphasis was placed on the struggle against 'heretics' and collaborators, in accordance with the view of the Muslim Brotherhood that Jihad should come only after the purging of rivals from within. At the same time, a military infrastructure was prepared, including the stockpiling of weapons for the war against Israel. Shortly before the outbreak of the intifada, operatives were recruited to carry out the military Jihad. Organized military activity by this group, including regular terrorist attacks, became manifest only after the beginning of the intifada. Following the outbreak of the intifada, the military apparatus carried out a large number of attacks of various kinds, including bombs and gunfire, mostly in the northern part of the Gaza District. These attacks reached their climax with the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldiers Avi Sasportas (February 1989) and Ilan Sa'adon (May 1989). The Security Section and the "MAJD" Units The Security Section ("Jehaz Aman") was established in early 1986 by Sheikh Yassin together with two of his associates, who were also active in "Al-Majama". The role of the section was to conduct surveillance of suspected collaborators and other Palestinians who acted in a manner which ran counter to the principles of Islam (drug dealers, sellers of pornography, etc.). In late 1986 - early 1987, on the recommendation of the two heads of the security section, Yassin decided to set up hit squads, known as "MAJD", whose purpose was to kill 'heretics' and collaborators. Yassin instructed the leaders that they must kill anyone who admitted under interrogation to being a collaborator, and reinforced this instruction with a religious ruling. This mode of action continued until the outbreak of the intifada, when HAMAS' approach underwent significant changes, leading to the beginning of organized military action against Israeli targets as well. The "MAJD" units then became part of the "Al-Majahadoun" network. The "Iz Al-Din Al-Kassam" Squads The military apparatus of HAMAS underwent several changes in the course of the intifada, as a result of preventive measures and exposure by the Israeli forces following major terrorist attacks carried out by HAMAS operatives. The last form which this apparatus has taken is the "Iz Al-Din Al-Kassam" Squads, which is responsible for most of the serious attacks carried out by HAMAS since January 1, 1992. These squads include dozens of wanted suspects from Gaza. In the course of the year, some of these suspects began to operate in Judea and Samaria as well, while recruiting Palestinians from Judea and Samaria to carry out attacks inside the Green Line (the murder of a border guard in Jerusalem and the planting of a car bomb in Ramat Efal). Some members of these squads have been apprehended or killed, and some have fled to Egypt. Today, several dozen HAMAS operatives remain active in the territories, most of them members of the "Iz Al-Din Al-Kassam" squads. . ===================================================================== Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem Mail all Queries to [email protected] URL: http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il gopher://israel-info.gov.il =====================================================================