HAMAS (in Arabic, an acronym for "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia" -- Islamic Resistance Movement -- and a word meaning zeal) 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. Formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various HAMAS elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. In a January 2006 election, Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature.
HAMAS activists, especially those in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks—including large-scale suicide bombings—against Israeli civilian and military targets. In the early 1990s, they also targeted suspected Palestinian collaborators and Fatah rivals. HAMAS increased its operational activity during 2002-2003 claiming numerous attacks against Israeli interests. The group has not targeted US interests—although some US citizens have been killed in HAMAS operations—and continues to confine its attacks to Israelis inside Israel and the territories.
Unknown number of official members; tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers.
Receives some funding from Iran but primarily relies on donations from Palestinian expatriates around the world and private benefactors in moderate Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe and North America.