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Hamas: Background & Overview

Hamas is the Arabic acronym for The Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya). Since 2007, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip.

Wings of Hamas
Operation Cast Lead
Operation Protective Edge
Hamas Prepares for the Next Rounds
Heavy Tunneling Resumes
Days of Rage/The Stabbing Intifada
Sinwar Shifts Military Strategy
Hamas and Iran

The Qatari Connection
Seizure of Funds
West Bank Operations
Rocket and Mortar Arsenal
U.S. Sanctions
Saudi Arabia Turns On Hamas
Hamas and Turkey
Recruitment of Israeli Arabs

Operation Guardian of the Walls
Establishing a Base in Lebanon
Operation Breaking Dawn
The October 7 Massacre

Hamas Logo
Hamas Emblem














Hamas grew out of the ideology and practice of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement that arose in Egypt in the 1920s. It was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma Al Islami. Initially, the organization followed the Muslim Brotherhood’s model of acting primarily as a social welfare agency that catered mainly to the Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and, over time, developed a good reputation for improving the lives of Palestinians. Hamas also exerted its influence through the mosques. Today, Hamas is intimately tied to the Islamic regimes in Syria and Iran.

In August 1988, Hamas published the Islamic Covenant, which makes clear the organization is opposed to Israel’s existence in any form. It states that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad (holy war).” The group warns that any Muslim who leaves “the circle of struggle with Zionism” is guilty of “high treason.” Hamas’ platform calls for creating an Islamic republic in Palestine to replace Israel. Muslims should “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” it says.

Hamas stresses jihad as the sole and immediate means to solve the problem of Palestine. Hamas aims to create an Islamic state in all of Palestine. The primary means to achieve this goal is the escalation of the armed struggle and, ultimately, jihad, with the participation not only of Palestinian Muslims but of the entire Islamic world.

Hamas’ violent activities are run by two central departments established before the intifada. One is Hamas’ military arm, created in 1982 in Gaza by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The organization’s military wing has approximately 30,000 fighters with another 7,000 reserves.

In the early 1980s, the group began amassing arms for use against Israel. After it was uncovered in 1984, Yassin was imprisoned. He was freed from a 1985 prisoner exchange between Israel and PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril.

A second Hamas arm called the Majd was created by Yassin in 1986 to monitor Arabs deemed to be “collaborating” with Israel or failing to follow Islamic doctrine. In 1988, a similar Hamas operation began in the West Bank.

The military apparatus of Hamas underwent several changes in the course of the intifada due to preventive measures and exposure by the Israeli forces following major terrorist attacks conducted by Hamas operatives. The final form that this apparatus has taken is the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Squads, which are responsible for the most severe attacks by Hamas since January 1, 1992.

Hamas perpetrates terrorist attacks in a variety of forms: firing rockets toward Israeli communities, infiltrations into Israeli communities to murder Israeli civilians, explosive charges against IDF tanks and vehicles, shooting toward civilian vehicles in the Gaza Strip, ambushes of IDF soldiers, dispatching booby-trapped boats towards Israeli ships, kidnapping and attempted kidnappings of IDF soldiers, and suicide bombings. In addition, Hamas operatives smuggle weapons and terrorists from Egypt into Gaza using underground tunnels. Amazingly, some of this activity is directed by Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons, though most of it is done by the Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip.

The former deputy commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division wrote I find it inconceivable that Egyptian security forces fail to stop the steady flow of weapons through Sinai to Gaza. He acknowledged that Egypt made efforts to block or destroy tunnels in the past but accused the Egyptians in 2022 of not preventing the use of tunnels or intercepting weapons before they enter the tunnels, given that only one road leads in and out of the Rafah entry point to Gaza.

The “Wings” of Hamas

Hamas tries to present a separation between the political leadership and the military wing as if the military activity serves no political aim. In practice, the formal “military leadership” of Hamas is subordinate to what is known as the “political leadership.” However, this “political echelon” of the terrorist organization directs, instructs, and determines policy, including terrorist activity. Interrogation of Hamas operatives points to Rantissi as directing Hamas terrorist policy. His public statements serve as instructions for terrorists to conduct attacks.

Some governments have resisted designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, preferring to accept the artificial division and recognize the political wing as legitimate. In 2021, Great Britain finally realized there was no distinction. “Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry and terrorist training facilities,” tweeted Home Secretary Priti Patel. “That is why today I have acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.” Australia made the same decision in February 2022.

With the start of the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada in 2000, Hamas used its power in Gaza to repeatedly fire rockets at both Israeli settlements within the Strip and Israeli cities outside of it. Hamas also stepped up its suicide bombings inside Israel. The IDF answered by leading a mission of targeted assassinations against the Hamas leadership in an attempt to destroy the organization by cutting off its head. On March 22, 2004, Yassin was assassinated, and the subsequently named successor, Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi, was killed by the IDF on April 17, 2004.

In 2005, after much debate, the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw all Israeli presence from Gaza in an overt attempt to appease Hamas and get it to stop firing rockets and terrorizing Israel. Today, it is evident that Sharon’s plan failed miserably. Hamas rockets continue to rain down on Israel, and the IDF has been forced to invade the area twice in an effort to destroy Hamas’s fighting capability.

The IDF first reentered Gaza in June 2006 after Hamas operatives infiltrated Israel, attacked an army post, and kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the army to invade, rescue Shalit and destroy Hamas’s weapons stores. Known in Israel as Operation Summer Rains and Operation Autumn Clouds, the missions failed to achieve any of the major goals set forth by Olmert. Though the IDF weakened Hamas, it was not destroyed, and Shalit was not rescued.

In 2007, following Hamas’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip and forced out all remnants of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Operation Cast Lead

When Hamas rocket fire against Israel escalated to the point that the government could no longer sit idly by, Prime Minister Olmert ordered a second invasion of Gaza in December 2008, code-named Operation Cast Lead. With much of the same stated goals as the previous operations, the IDF was tasked with destroying Hamas’s rocket infrastructure and, if possible, rescuing still-captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Operation Cast Lead lasted until late January 2009 before Israel implemented a cease-fire. Hamas claimed yet another victory in this round of fighting, but statistics showed that the IDF had managed to kill nearly 1,000 Hamas operatives during the few weeks of battle.

In October 2011, after more than five years of holding Shalit in captivity, Hamas negotiated with Israel (through Egyptian and German intermediaries) for his release in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel agreed to the prisoner swap, and on October 18, 2011, Shalit was returned to Israel.

In December 2011, Hamas celebrated in 24th anniversary with huge celebrations across the Gaza Strip. In a press release sent out by the organization through its Twitter account, Hamas claims to have fired more than 11,000 rockets at Israel between 2000 and 2011, killed more than 1,360 Israelis, and injured more than 6,400 others.

In 2012, Hamas fired 1,697 rockets at Israel.

On April 24, 2014, the two main Palestinian political factions – Hamas and Fatah – signed a reconciliation agreement to unite their disparate parts of the Palestinian Authority. The two rivals split seven years ago following Hamas’ violent coup that wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah and the PA.

Operation Protective Edge

In response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and dramatically increasing fire coming from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014. Over the following 50 days, Israel fought to destroy the terror capabilities of Hamas by carrying out air strikes against Hamas leaders, locating and destroying attack tunnels dug by Hamas to infiltrate Israel, and using the Iron Dome to defend its citizens. Over 2,000 Palestinians died as Hamas used their standard tactics of firing from densely populated urban areas and provoking Israeli responses that decimated the Gaza Strip. Throughout the conflict, Egypt functioned as a mediator in desperate attempts to end the violence, which resulted in multiple cease-fires being agreed to. Hamas violated these cease-fires by firing rockets and mortars into Israeli territory on eleven occasions. During Operation Protective Edge, the international community chastised Israel and saw them as unfair to Hamas, laying out strikes against the organization in Gaza that international actors deemed a gross and unnecessary display of force. By violating the agreed-to ceasefires, Hamas showed no regard for the Palestinian citizens and showed that their vision is clouded by pure hatred for the Israeli “occupying force.” They deliberately put their citizens in danger to gain international sympathy for the Palestinian people when Israel is forced to retaliate.

At the beginning of the conflict, Israel's stated goal was to destroy the attack tunnels dug by Hamas into Israel, stop the endless rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip, and bring to justice the individuals responsible for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens. When the kidnapping first occurred on June 12, 2014, Hamas officials denied involvement. Three months later, they accepted responsibility and announced that they had orchestrated the abduction and murder of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. Over the course of Operation Protective Edge, 3,356 rockets were fired at Israel by Hamas, and the Iron Dome intercepted 578 of them. The Israeli forces destroyed 32 terror tunnels dug by Hamas and conducted air strikes, resulting in the deaths of multiple Hamas leaders and their family members.

On August 26, the Palestinian terror organizations and Israel agreed to a ceasefire. Hamas members declared a glorious victory, and citizens celebrated by firing guns into the air, injuring and killing multiple people. The plan that Hamas accepted was almost identical to the first one that Egypt had proposed two months prior. Hamas was forced to abandon its demands of a seaport, an airport, and an end to the Israeli blockade to reach an agreement. Although over 2,000 Palestinians died, and it is estimated that reconstruction will cost $7.8 billion, Hamas sees the outcome of Operation Protective Edge as beneficial for them because they stood their ground in the face of Israel and were successful in garnering international sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people.

On September 25, 2014, Hamas spokesperson Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated “we don’t want to establish an Islamic emirate in Gaza; we want an Islamic state in all Palestine.” The goal of Hamas is to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland and, in this quote, Al-Zahar makes it clear that Hamas is in no way interested in peace and is only interested in the destruction and suffering of the people of Israel.

Following Operation Protective Edge, Hamas returned immediately to weapons production and propaganda. Although the organization is hurting for funds, they have managed to revive its weapons industry, conducting multiple rocket tests in the Mediterranean and beginning the reconstruction of terror tunnels into Israel. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, staged a military parade through the streets of Gaza on October 9, the same day that the newly formed Palestinian Unity government met for the first time in Gaza. This parade was part of a recruitment drive by Hamas to drum up more support for the military units.

Hamas conducted multiple rocket tests on October 23, firing rockets toward the Mediterranean Sea. This was the sixth incident of Hamas test-firing rockets since the end of Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas Prepares for the Next Round

For the first time in months, on October 1, 2014, many employees of the former Hamas government in the Gaza Strip received their salaries of $1,200 each. Some 24,000 public workers who had not received salaries since October 2013 were paid. The money for the wages was donated by Qatar, which gave the unity government $30 million to pay the workers.

The European Union removed Hamas from a designated terror organization blacklist on December 17, 2014. The ruling, handed down by the General Court of the European Union, stated that Hamas’s designation as a terrorist organization by the EU in 2001 was “ not [based] on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities” but instead based on “factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.” This ruling was brought about after Hamas officials contested their designation on the list of terrorist organizations. Despite this ruling removing the designation, the court ruled that the effects of this designation would stay in place for at least three months, including the freezing of funds.

On January 19, 2015, the European Union announced that it would appeal this ruling by the European Union court in a move that Israeli officials welcomed. According to court documents, the European Union must provide evidence that Hamas remains a terrorist group and cannot use third-party sources from the internet to do so.

On December 24, 2014, it was reported by local news agencies that Hamas had begun building new fighting positions and fortifying its bases of operations. Residents of the Gaza Strip reported seeing dirt mounts, ramps, and other fortifications being built and moved by members dressed in Hamas military garb. Hamas members then raised flags over their new positions.

Although groups like Hamas and Fatah have continued to deny it, the Islamic State has begun to take a foothold in the Palestinian territories. Israeli security sources claim that in late 2014 and early 2015, hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have defected to the Islamic State. Following the attack on the satirical French news magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, thousands of supporters of the Islamic State crowded the streets of Gaza in protest of the publishing of images of Mohammed by the magazine and in support of the violent attack that left twelve people dead. Similar demonstrations took place in Ramallah and Hebron. These protestors attempted to storm the office of the French Cultural Center in Gaza and burned French flags while chanting calls for the slaughter of French nationals. Palestinian security forces were dispatched to the protest area, where they arrested seven Islamic State supporters. On January 18, 2015, it was revealed that several would-be jihadists “training” to join the Islamic State had been arrested in November and December in Galilee, Northern Israel. Israeli security forces apprehended the seven Arab Israeli citizens after participating in “training” sessions where they slaughtered sheep, practiced riding horses, learned how to make and hurl a Molotov cocktail properly, and participated in target shooting activities. The individuals arrested included Adnan Ala al-Din, a 40-year-old prominent lawyer from Nazareth, and brothers who had had issues with Israeli security forces in the past. Ala al-Din presented himself to the security forces as the Senior Commander of the Islamic State in Palestine at his arrest.

After conducting multiple attacks inside Egypt in late 2014 and early 2015, an Egyptian court designated the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization in February 2015. The group was accused of financing, planning, and executing terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Egyptian citizens, including security personnel. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri issued a public statement in which he rejected the ruling passed down by the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters, calling the designation “dangerous.” An Egyptian court ruled that the Hamas organization is a “terrorist movement,” not just their military factions. Hamas took to Twitter to issue an immediate response, posting that designating Hamas as a terrorist organization was a “great shame disgracing the reputation of Egypt.” Five days later, Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh wrote an email stating that Hamas wished to air its grievances and establish further ties with Egypt. Haniyeh wrote that the Hamas organization was “ready for any proposals that would remove obstacles between the Palestinian and the Egyptian brothers.”

Government files leaked in February 2015 showed that the CIA had tried to contact and gain access to Hamas through back channels despite an official ban on contact with the terrorist organization. The leaked documents disclosed how a CIA agent contacted a South African intelligence agent in 2012 about the possibility of gaining access to Hamas to recruit an informant. Also included in the reports are transcripts from a call where President Obama warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to proceed with the Palestinians’ 2012 statehood bid.

Three Israeli citizens were arrested on March 2, 2015, charged with suspicion of supplying raw materials to Hamas militants during Operation Protective Edge. The suspected smuggling ring also included multiple Palestinian businessmen and a Palestinian merchant named Osama Zuaroub. Zuaroub was the Israeli’s main contact point on the other side. The accused stored the materials in a warehouse in Mivtachim and used the Kerem border crossing to transfer materials to Hamas militants. The charges detailed that the payment for the materials, storage in the warehouse, and transfer to Hamas amounted to about $375,000 per month. Hamas allegedly purchased more than $30 million worth of goods from the three Israelis through Zuaroub. Files charged against the Israeli individuals include contact with a foreign agent, providing aid to the enemy in its war against Israel, and fraud.

Hamas representatives rejected a peace agreement presented by the UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace, Robert Serry, on March 12, 2015. The proposal was drafted by Palestinian, Israeli, US, and international representatives and would have seen an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the allowable construction of an airport and seaport. The peace agreement was for a proposed five-year cease-fire. Hamas spokesperson Mousa Abu Marzouk explained their rejection the next day on social media, claiming that “Israel made the proposal with the aim of separating the enclave from the West Bank so it can swallow it with the settlements. We are paying a steep price for our stance by the continued blockade and economic pressure over the Strip, but we reject any idea that would lead to the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” This trip was Serry’s last to the Gaza Strip.

For the first time since Hamas took over Gaza eight years prior, in March 2015, a large shipment of vegetables was exported to the Israeli territory. Before Hamas took control of the area, Palestinian merchants exported hundreds of tons of produce to Israel daily. However, since the takeover, it has been too risky for Israel to leave the border crossings open regularly, and the blockade on Gaza has been enforced. This shipment in March 2015 included 27 tons of tomatoes and five tons of eggplants, to be sold in Israel for about $770 per ton. In the months following the end of Operation Protective Edge, Israeli officials increased the number of border permits for Gaza merchants to sell their products in Israel. The Israeli military agency that oversees Gaza civilian affairs, COGAT, said that shipments totaling 1,500 tons are expected monthly. This produce will be shipped in a box stamped with the farmer’s name and a sticker that reads “product of Gaza.”

A new video surfaced on March 12, 2015, showing Hamas militants digging tunnels and setting up training facilities near the Israel border. The video was shot by civilian residents near the border, who said that the men bore arms and wore masks while they worked.

According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar, Hamas put extra effort into revamping their naval commando units following Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Since Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas has set up a large, professional underwater force capable of launching stealth attacks against Israeli power plants, coal terminals, gas rigs, and other targets.

Dirar Abu Sisi, the Hamas engineer and tactician, was convicted in March 2015 of opening and operating a “war college” where Hamas commanders trained, multiple counts of attempted murder, belonging to a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and unauthorized manufacture of arms. Abu Sisi pleaded guilty to all charges levied against him. He was directly involved in developing missiles and rockets used by Hamas, including developing ways to make them shoot farther. Because he pleaded guilty in court, the prosecution agreed to drop some of the many attempted murder charges.

A report published by the Wall Street Journal on April 21, 2015, detailed that Iran had been funneling millions of dollars to the Hamas military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, to help them rebuild their network of terror tunnels destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. These funds were transferred under the direct orders of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC Quds force. In addition to rebuilding their network of tunnels, Hamas members used the funds to replenish their rocket supplies.

Foreign Policy magazine reported in April 2015 that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups were hard at work training for the next battle with Israel. According to the report, the groups used women more frequently: one female Hamas member said, “We fit the training around our domestic chores. We also watch the roads, protecting the men as they move.” Since the end of Operation Protective Edge, more women in Gaza have been training to fight hand-to-hand, use firearms, disarm opponents, drive vehicles through battle zones, and kidnap Israeli soldiers. Abu Mujahid, a Nasser Salahuddin Brigade commander, said that “the war could start any minute. All the fighting groups evacuated the bases, we’ve postponed training sessions, and many of the men have moved underground...There are people right now under your feet.”

Israeli officials believe Hamas has rebuilt its arsenal to the same level as before the 2014 war. The group has also added new capabilities, including a navy commando unit and aerial drones.

In June 2018, IDF officers warned that they believed Hamas to be significantly upgrading their naval commando units. In an interview with the Israeli press, IDF Lt. Col. Boris Schuster stated that Hamas has been focusing more on its naval commando units and maritime capabilities due to a loss of strategic assets and terror tunnel closures. According to Schuster, IDF soldiers are training for many scenarios, including the possibility that Hamas militants will use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to bomb Israeli Navy ships. In early June 2018, the IDF discovered and destroyed a Hamas terror tunnel that had been dug underwater, which would have allowed Hamas militants to conduct an attack and disappear silently into the sea.

In response to these maritime threats, the Israeli Defense Ministry began constructing an underwater barrier in May 2018 to prevent Hamas infiltrations by sea in Israeli coastal communities. It will include one barrier below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a third layer with barbed wire.

During a November 23, 2018, interview, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, said that Hamas has missiles that can strike anywhere in Israel and is working to increase the missiles’ range, accuracy, and destructive power.

Heavy Tunneling Resumes

Hamas militants began using heavy machinery and engineering tools to build their underground attack tunnels into Israel in 2015. Witnesses from the Israeli side of the border said they could see large tractors digging and moving dirt, while underground, the Hamas members used small bulldozers to maneuver in the tunnel’s tight spaces. While Hamas funnels millions of dollars meant for humanitarian aid into terrorist projects, the situation of the civilians living in the Palestinian territory worsens by the day.

Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, encouraged Hamas members to engage in the abduction of Israeli soldiers in April 2015, stating, “we tell the Zionist enemy: you are all a target for us and the resistance, we will fight you until we finally get rid of you and take as many captives as possible to free our heroes. Our men, our women, our children all envision kidnapping your soldiers and settlers, wherever they are. And it is our right because we have no other way to free our heroes, and it is the Zionist enemy responsible for this state of affairs.” He said firmly that captive Palestinian prisoners should rest assured that they will be released and encouraged members of Palestinian resistance forces to abduct Israelis so they may be used in prisoner exchanges.

Palestinian Authority ministers and officials visiting the Gaza Strip were detained in their hotel by Hamas during the second week of April 2015. The group of 10 ministers and 30 government officials were sent to the Gaza Strip to solve the issue of Palestinian Authority employees not having been paid for months. Still, they were barred from leaving their hotel by Hamas militants. The Palestinian Authority members could not attend their important meetings scheduled during that week and were also not able to speak to any Palestinian civilians.

During the weekend of April 18, senior Hamas members passed the National Solidarity Tax law on “non-basic” goods being imported into the Gaza Strip. This tax will be levied on goods such as meats, fruits, electronics, and clothing, while “necessary” goods like flour and medicine are to be exempt from the tax. Senior Hamas officials revealed that most of the revenue from this new tax would pay the salaries of the over 40,000 Hamas employees who had not been paid in over a year. This tax angered Gaza merchants, who were worried that they would not be able to sell as many products if the taxes increased. The increased import tax also meant that some merchants would not be able to afford their wholesale products anymore, forcing them out of business. According to Hamas Parliament member Abu Halbiya, the tax could pile on an extra 10% in some instances.

Hamas commander Mohammed Deif, a long-time target of the IDF for his crucial role in planning terrorist attacks, who had been wounded in a prior assassination attempt, was thought killed during Operation Protective Edge. He resurfaced, however, months later in April 2015, reportedly overseeing a crew of approximately 1,000 workers constructing new attack tunnels with materials provided to Palestinian people for reconstruction but sold on the black market to Hamas. Deif is also heavily involved in plans to advance Hamas’s rocket capabilities.

The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, released a video in August 2015 showing off their new tunnels, which they had rebuilt following the destruction of Operation Protective Edge. Hamas managed to rebuild many of the terror tunnels destroyed by Israeli troops during the last conflict.

Eight Hamas militants were killed on January 27, 2016, after heavy rains collapsed the construction of the terror tunnel. The militants were killed and buried in the rubble during the collapse. Two more Hamas operatives were killed, and eight others were reported missing on February 3 in another tunnel collapse.

The United States announced an investment of $120 million in Israel’s anti-tunneling technology on February 3, 2016. Later that week, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot spoke at a press conference where he confirmed that nearly 100 engineering vehicles were currently working at the border to identify and destroy Hamas tunnels. “We are doing a lot, but many of [the things we do] are hidden from the public. We have dozens, if not a hundred, engineering vehicles on the Gaza border,” Eisenkot said.

Three Palestinians were killed when their tunnel collapsed while digging into Israel on April 10, 2016. During the first four months of 2016, at least 16 Palestinians were killed in tunnel collapses.

The Israeli military discovered and destroyed a tunnel going from Gaza into Israeli territory in mid-April 2016. This was the first completed tunnel found following Operation Protective Edge. The tunnel was built approximately 110-130 feet underground and was equipped with electricity, running water, and communication lines. The IDF discovered another cross-border tunnel from Southern Gaza into Israeli territory on May 3, 2016, and planned to “investigate it and then destroy it.” IDF officials said they could not tell if the whole tunnel had been dug before or after Operation Protective Edge but stated they believed certain portions had been added more recently.

The Israeli government announced in June 2016 that construction would soon begin on a deep underground metal wall surrounding Gaza to prevent further tunneling. According to Israeli security officials, most of the new wall will be underground, and the barrier will add to the existing border fence. The underground barrier will stretch the entire 40-mile border between Israel and the Gaza Strip and be equipped with sensors produced by the Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems using technologies that monitor and predict seismic changes. A six to eight-meter wire fence armed with sensors and cameras will be built above ground. Observation, control, and command centers will be made along its length. Above and below ground, the entire barrier will be linked online to a command center located on a nearby military base. The project is expected to cost $570 million.

The IDF discovered an attack tunnel from Gaza into Israel in late October 2017 and detonated explosives in the tunnel to collapse it on October 30. Seven Hamas militants were killed when the tunnel collapsed, including a senior field commander. Eleven additional Hamas militants were wounded.

The Israeli military announced that they had destroyed two Hamas terror tunnels on March 19, 2018.

Days of Rage/Stabbing Intifada

Palestinian leaders stoked the flames of violence during September and October 2015, spreading false information about Israel’s actions surrounding the Temple Mount. Mahmoud Abbas stated that Israelis were “desecrating” the al-Aqsa Mosque and Church of the Holy Sepulcher with their “filthy feet” and encouraged Palestinians to conduct acts of violence against Jewish Israelis. The wave of violence experienced in late 2015 was due mainly to a Palestinian perception that the Israelis would somehow change the rules of who could access the Temple Mount, undermining Muslim supremacy at the holy site. The Israeli government issued official statements clarifying that there was no intention of changing the status quo at the Temple Mount. Still, Palestinian leaders continued to incite violence against Israeli Jews through speeches and posts on social media. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared Friday, October 9, to be a “day of rage... a day that will represent that start of a new Intifada in all the land of Palestine.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon traveled to Israel and met with various leaders in an attempt to quell the violence on October 20. One hundred and eight stabbings, thirty-seven shootings, and twenty-two car-ramming attacks by Palestinians against Israelis between September 13 and January 19, 2015. To read a summary of these attacks.

Israeli officials ramped up security around the country in response to these attacks, especially in Jerusalem and Hebron and at the Temple Mount. Israeli security forces also cracked down on Hamas leaders, detaining Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef. Israel accused Yousef of encouraging, inciting, and praising the attacks that rocked the country during the previous month. Hamas leaders, including Yousef, called for a new uprising against Israel and encouraged attacks on Israelis via social media and news outlets.

The United States slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority by $80 million for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, due to the Palestinian leaders’ continued incitement of violence against Israelis. This represented a 22% cut from the State Department’s initial budget request. Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen authored a Foreign Affairs Committee resolution unanimously approved on October 22, 2015, calling for Abbas and other Palestinian leaders to be held accountable for the new wave of violence. Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement calling upon Abbas to “[stop] inciting violence and promoting hatred, [and] to call for calm and work with the Israelis to restore the peace.”

Facebook shut down groups and pages associated with Hamas and similar organizations in late October 2015 to calm incitement being propagated through social media platforms. Hamas leaders stated on October 21 that “Facebook has closed, over the past two days, many pages run by and close to the Hamas movement’s media in the occupied West Bank. Today and yesterday, [Hamas] pages [based] in Ramallah, Galilee, Nablus, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Salfit, Tubas, and Jenin were closed, as well as the page of the Muslim Youth League in the West Bank. At the same time as the closure of these pages, Facebook has closed and frozen the accounts of dozens of publishers and administrators who run [them].”

The IDF and the Shin Bet exposed a terror network of 24 militants operating in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, West Bank, on November 9, 2015. The 24 individuals arrested represented some of the principal terrorist leadership in that district, who regularly received instructions and support from Qatar and Gaza.

Hamas transferred thousands of dollars to the Islamic State affiliate in Sinai, Egypt, in 2015. According to Israeli security officials, Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, paid the ISIS affiliate in Sinai to secure weapons shipments, which were then smuggled in tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Egyptian security officials blame Hamas for changing the Islamic State in Sinai from a rag-tag group of rebels into a well-armed and well-funded fighting group. This revelation is an interesting paradox, considering that the main financial sponsor of Hamas, Iran, is fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

A report was leaked in early January 2016 that exposed an Iranian attempt to ally themselves with Hamas in their dispute with Saudi Arabia. Iran offered Hamas financial support, but Hamas official Khaled Mashal rejected the offer. Meshaal claimed that it would be “unwise” to intervene in the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia. A taped phone conversation released on February 1, 2016, captured Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk berating Iran, claiming that the Iranian government has not provided Hamas aid since 2009. Marzouk said, “They are incredibly manipulative people. We’ve received nothing from them since 2009. Everything they’re saying is a lie.” In response to these accusations, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hussein Ansari clarified that Iran was still providing support in many ways to various Palestinian “resistance” groups, including Hamas.

On January 29, 2016, Haniyeh revealed that the group was developing its military capabilities in preparation for a protracted conflict with Israel. “There are those who think that the calm is a time of rest,” Haniyeh said during his weekly sermon following Friday prayers, “But this is a continuation of the struggle. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are working and preparing for Palestine.”

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, expressed outrage in mid-February 2015 at the execution of a top brigade commander, Mohamed Eshtaiwi. Hamas executed Eshtaiwi for treason and alleged “moral and behavioral trespasses” after he contacted leaders of Hamas cells abroad. Members of the Brigades who split off and began referring to themselves as the Free al-Qassam Brigades issued statements strongly condemning Eshtaiwi’s execution at the hands of Hamas.

Reuters Bureau Chief in Israel Luke Baker was briefly detained and questioned by Hamas members while taking pictures of a new road being built in Gaza on February 25, 2016. A man in a suit stopped Baker while doing his work and was instructed to go with the man. The pair entered a building where Baker was introduced to a man who identified himself as a leader of Hamas security forces, who proceeded to question Baker. At the same time, the two sat in a courtyard and shared drinks. After a short time, the journalist was allowed to leave and stated that he did not feel scared and was not accused of anything.

According to Egyptian officials, members of the Hamas militant group crossed the border to Egypt and began fighting alongside the Islamic State in Sinai in late 2015 and early 2016. The Hamas members arrived in small groups via the last secretive tunnels connecting Gaza to the Sinai.

Israeli officials stated in March 2016 that they believed Hamas had replenished its rocket supply following Operation Protective Edge.

On April 18, 2016, a bomb placed on a public bus in Jerusalem exploded, injuring 21 Israelis. This was the first attack on an Israeli bus since building the security fence.

Hamas conducted short-range missile tests on June 10, 2016, to improve the range and accuracy of its projectiles. The group fired approximately 30 rockets, none aimed at Israeli territory.

Israeli authorities arrested Mohammad El Halabi on June 15, 2016, on charges of funneling approximately $43 million in aid to the military branches of Hamas since 2010. El Halabi was the Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision's large Christian charity organization and had allegedly been working for Hamas since 2004. El Halabi was given a mission by Hamas to infiltrate the World Vision organization and gain an influential position. In the six years that El Halabi worked for World Vision, he transferred approximately 60% of the organization’s budget to Hamas. In response to these revelations, the Australian and German governments immediately suspended all funding of World Vision’s projects in the Palestinian territories.

Waheed Borsh, a 38-year-old engineer who had worked for the UN Development Program (UNDP) since 2003, was arrested on July 16, 2016, and charged in August with providing aid to Hamas. The suspect confessed to diverting 300 tons of rubble and cement from a UNDP program to a Hamas naval project and encouraging UNDP inspectors to focus rebuilding efforts following Protective Edge on areas where Hamas officials lived. During April and May 2015, Borsh helped build a naval commando port for Hamas. The UNDP issued a statement claiming that they were “greatly concerned” about the situation and would conduct a “thorough internal review of the processes and circumstances surrounding the allegation.”

The U.S State Department designated senior Hamas official Fathi Ahmad Mohammad Hammad as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in September 2016. Hammad engaged in terrorist activity on behalf of the Hamas organization and oversaw security within Gaza while serving as Hamas’s Interior Minister.

Sinwar Shifts Military Strategy

Yahya Sinwar, a General from the Qassam Brigades, was elected the new Prime Minister of Hamas in Gaza on February 13, 2017. Sinwar was elected to replace Ismail Haniyeh, who had served as Hamas Prime Minister since the group’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. In 2011, Sinwar was released from Israeli prison after serving 22 years as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal. Haniyeh was not out of the public eye for long; during the first week of May 2017, it was announced that he was chosen to succeed Khaled Mashal as the political bureau chief of Hamas.

Hamas military leader Mazen Fuqaha was assassinated in his car on March 24, 2017, and the Palestinian Authority quickly blamed Israel. Israeli officials did not comment on his death and only stated that he had been involved in planning attacks against Israel. Fuqaha was close friends with the newly elected Prime Minister of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, and the two had previously shared a cell in an Israeli prison for one year.

For the first time since the release of its founding Charter, Hamas published a new policy document (see annotated version) in May 2017. The publication of the document, which slightly tones down the incendiary rhetoric and language used in their 1988 Charter, was widely viewed as a PR move to soften the image of the terrorist organization. Contrary to the group's charter, the new document does not mention the Muslim Brotherhood organization. Most importantly, it states the organization’s willingness to accept an interim Palestinian state featuring pre-1967 borders for the first time. Despite this, the new policy paper makes no mention of Hamas’s intention to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas is trying to fool the world, but it will not succeed.

Hamas officials permitted demonstrations in Gaza featuring thousands of supporters of their rival Mohammed Dahlan in July 2017, a sign that the two sides were beginning to reconcile their differences following June 2017 negotiations between Dahlan and Yahya Sinwar in Egypt. Supporters of Dahlan were permitted to open an office in Gaza in June 2017, preparing for his possible return to the Strip for the first time since 2011.

Though predictions of another war have repeatedly appeared in the media, the last three years have seen the most extended period of quiet in the south of Israel since 1968. Despite appearances, however, the head of the Shin Bet said in March 2017 that Hamas and jihadist groups are trying to launch terror attacks every day.

Judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU’s highest court, overturned a 2014 ruling by a lower court that stopped asset freezes and travel bans on Hamas officials. The ECJ judges ruled that Hamas should be once again listed as a terrorist organization and placed on the EU terror blacklist.

The U.S. State Department announced the designation of Haniyeh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2018.

Due to Israel’s construction of a barrier to prevent tunneling across the border, Sinwar has also decided to focus more on constructing bunkers and tunnels for defensive purposes. The tunnels are expected to be used as command centers, armories, and smuggling routes.

Despite its ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt has reconciled with Hamas, and the group is reportedly opening an office in Cairo to coordinate more closely with the Egyptian government.

Alarmed by the growing ties between Israel and the Arab world, Hamas stated on March 7, 2018, condemning the normalization of relations with Israel, endorsing the BDS movement, and warning it would not forgive anyone who normalizes relations with the enemy.

The Great March of Return was initially planned to be a six-week non-violent protest campaign by Palestinians at the Gaza border fence with Israel. The end goal was to express their desire to return to lands their ancestors had lost or been driven from. In the weeks leading up to the planned beginning of the protest, word of the march reached Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These Palestinian terror organizations endorsed the Great March of Return and sought to co-opt the protests to serve their objectives.

In March 2021, Sinwar was elected to a second four-year term as the head of the organization’s Gaza political bureau in an election held in secret. He is the highest-ranking Hamas official in Gaza and the Strip’s de facto ruler. He is the second most powerful member of Hamas after Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas and Iran

Iranian support for Hamas began in 1992 when a conference was held in Tehran as part of an effort to undermine U.S. peace efforts initiated at the Madrid Conference in 1990. Iran pledged to provide Hamas $30 million annually and provide military training. After 418 of its members were deported to Lebanon the same year, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah taught them how to build and use suicide bombs. Then, when the deportees were allowed to return to Gaza, Iran began providing the organization $50 million annually.

During the second intifada, Iran used Hezbollah to smuggle weapons to Hamas. Hezbollah later armed and trained Hamas fighters in Lebanon. Some were also trained in Iran. After the uprising ended, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh visited Tehran in December 2006 and met with the Supreme Leader and president. He left with a promise of $250 million in aid.

During Operation Cast Lead, Iran increased aid, including supplying more advanced rockets. “The victory of the people of Gaza was a miracle of God, and the Islamic Republic definitely has a share in this victory,” said Khaled Mashal.

Weapons and rocket manufacturing materials were smuggled into Gaza by sea and through tunnels dug into Egypt. Hamas possessed mostly crude, inaccurate, short-range weapons until Iran provided more sophisticated long-range rockets, including the Fajr-5 in 2012, which could hit Tel Aviv. Iran denied it supplied the rockets, but Shallah said, “Iran has given us all the support. The weapons used by the resistance – the whole world knows that they come mostly from Iran or purchased with Iranian funding.”

Relations between Iran and Hamas deteriorated, and the flow of arms and money – $23 million a year at that point –stopped when Hamas expressed support for the Syrian opposition in 2011 and backed the Saudis in their war against the Houthis in Yemen. Iran supported the Assad regime and the Houthis in their civil wars. PIJ also lost its support over the war in Yemen. Both organizations faced financial crises as a result.

In late September 2017, Hamas Prime Minister Yahya Sinwar slashed the organization’s military wing budget by three-quarters. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ budget was $200 million in 2014 and was reduced to $50 million in the 2017 budget. Meanwhile, Iran resumed funding Hamas. After freezing financial support to punish Hamas for not supporting the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war, Iran reportedly provided $70 million to the group, making it, according to Sinwar, “the largest backer financially and militarily” of the organization’s military wing. At the time there was an internal struggle between leaders of Hamas who favored reconciling with Fatah and those who preferred a closer relationship with Iran, which opposed the talks with Fatah.

In May 2018, Sinwar said Hamas had improved its military capability with the help of Iran and described relations with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the commander of its elite Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, as “strong and warm.” He added that Iran has provided Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and other Gaza factions “a lot of money, equipment, and expertise.” He further stated that his organization had “excellent” relations with Hezbollah and that there is coordination on an “almost daily” basis between the two organizations.

As part of increasing cooperation with Hezbollah, Hamas’s deputy political chief, Saleh Al-Arouri, established the group’s main political ‎headquarters in Beirut.‎ In addition, Hezbollah trained Hamas fighters at its bases in southern Lebanon.‎

In July 2018, Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards General Gholamhossein Gheybparvar told terror groups in Gaza that Iran would provide money and weapons so long as they were committed to the jihad against Israel and the United States.

Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, said in December 2018 that Hezbollah has been providing Hamas with logistical support, political aid, and expertise. He added that Iran was the only country that helped Hamas recover from the war in 2014 and that Iran’s financial support is the “basis for the steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza.

 Sinwar publicly thanked Iran on May 30, 2019, for providing rockets it used to strike deep into Israel. He warned Tel Aviv would be attacked in response to any offensive against the Gaza Strip.

“Iran provided us with rockets, and we surprised the world when our resistance targeted Beersheba,” Sinwar said, referring to the firing of nearly 700 rockets at Israel on May 3-6. “Had it not been for Iran, the resistance in Palestine would not have possessed its current capabilities,” Sinwar said.

In August 2019, Israeli television reported that Iran offered Hamas $30 million per month in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities.

In 2020, Haniyeh delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC commander killed by the U.S. He said that the assistance Soleimani provided “brought them to the position they are in today in terms of power and steadfastness.”

In January 2021, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh stated, “All the missiles you might see in Gaza and Lebanon were created with Iran’s support. When Hamas and PIJ bombarded Israel with rockets in May, Haniyeh said Iran “did not hold back with money, weapons, and technical support.”

As Hamas bombarded Israel with rockets in May 2021, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, Ramez Al-Halabi, admitted Iran’s role in helping to build the terrorists’ arsenal:

The mujahideen in Gaza and in Lebanon use Iranian weapons to strike the Zionists. We buy our weapons with Iranian money. An important part of our activity is under the supervision of Iranian experts.

Similarly, Sinwar said, “If it wasn’t for Iran’s support, we would not have had these capabilities.”

In January 2022, Haniyeh denied that Hamas was fighting a proxy war for Iran, saying they were confronting a common enemy. He did acknowledge that Hamas received $70 million to help it develop missiles and defense systems.

During Operation Iron Sword, following the Hamas massacre of Israelis on October 7, 2024, the IDF found documents indicating that Sinwar received $15 million, $48 million, $42 million, and $12 million from Iran in 2014, 2015, 2019, and 2020, respectively.

The Qatari Connection

Besides Iran, Qatar is the principal funder of Hamas. To maintain calm and improve the economic conditions, Israel consented to allowing Qatar to deliver $30 million monthly, sometimes in suitcases full of cash, to Gaza.

Qatar also hosts Haniyeh and other Hamas members. Speaking of officials like Haniyeh, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said that “much like many Russian elites, senior Hamas officials often live in luxury, while the average Gazan faces dire living conditions.”

Following the October 7, 2023, massacre, members of Congress began to express anger at Qatar for providing Hamas members sanctuary. “The administration should tell the Qataris that these guys should be handed over by the U.S. or Israeli governments. They shouldn’t be able to stay there,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), a House Financial Services subcommittee member on national security and illicit finance. “The Qataris ought to make a choice: What side are you on, the side of terrorists or the side of the Americans? That choice should be forced upon them.”

Before the Gaza War began, the Washington Post said the United States and Israel believed it was “preferable to have Hamas’s leaders somewhere they can be monitored rather than somewhere, such as Iran, where they can’t.”

As the Gaza War escalated, Qatar told the U.S. it might reconsider allowing Hamas a home in the country. In the short-run, however, its relationship as Haniyeh’s host and Hamas funder made the Qataris the key mediator in negotiations for the release of more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas on October 7.

Seizure of Funds

Israeli police and intelligence agencies are engaged in preventing Hamas from transferring money to the families of terrorists who have murdered Israelis. In 2017, police and the Shin Bet seized more than $80,000 from the families of seven different terrorists.

In June 2018, agents raided the home of the family of Hisham Hussein Abu Dhaim, who murdered eight students during a terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2008. They seized more than $11,000.

“The involvement of Jerusalem residents in any form of activity financed by Hamas is a serious offense and constitutes an attempt to gain a foothold within the terrorist organization inside Jerusalem,” the police said.

West Bank Operations

Hamas has ongoing operations to weaken the government of Mahmoud Abbas with the intent of ultimately seizing control of the West Bank. The organization reportedly has sleeper cells for future attacks on Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Salah Al-Arouri, a Hamas leader based in Lebanon, has a budget to prepare an uprising in the West Bank. “They believe that the day will come when they can take over the West Bank, like they did in Gaza,” according to Dr. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad. “They are waiting for when they think the time is ripe to launch a revolution.”

One obstacle to Hamas’s efforts is that West Bank Palestinians do not identify with Gaza, while Palestinians in Gaza continue to identify with the West Bank. This is one reason violence between Israelis and Palestinians along the Gaza border did not provoke any response in the West Bank.

The IDF is also interested in preventing Hamas from gaining a foothold in the West Bank, Elad adds, and, hence, acts as Abbas’s “flak jacket.” Because of their mutual interest, Elad said, “cooperation between the IDF and the PA, in the pursuit of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is excellent.”

In July 2019, the Shin Bet announced that it foiled a Hamas plan to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank and that it arrested an explosives expert who entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment. A month later, the intelligence agency revealed it had prevented a terrorist attack in Jerusalem after an explosive charge and laboratory were discovered in Hebron. The group’s military wing in Gaza directed the attack on Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets. They were assigned to recruit new members and purchase weapons for kidnapping, shooting, and stabbing attacks.

Hamas rebuilt its infrastructure in the West Bank and planned a significant terror attack prompting IDF forces to launch an operation in September 2021 to arrest the operatives and seize their weapons. Several were detained, and at least five were killed.

Undeterred, Hamas continues its efforts to undermine the Palestinian Authority and develop a base of operations in the West Bank. In May 2023, Hamas created the “Al-Ayash Battalion,” named after Yahya Ayash, a terrorist leader killed by Israel in 1996. Saleh al-Arouri, the leader of Hamas’ military wing in Judea and Samaria, has been creating a terrorist network in northern Samaria dedicated to producing and launching rockets toward Israel. Rockets are now being manufactured in Jenin, and Israel fears Hamas may transfer advanced technology from Gaza that will allow terrorists to launch barrages similar to those emanating from Gaza.

Protests Flare Against Hamas

The deteriorating economic situation in Gaza has provoked greater anger toward Hamas. Some Palestinians fear the group will drag them into a catastrophic war with Israel to distract from the internal dissent.

In March 2019, several protests were staged against Hamas in Deir Al Balah, Khan Younis, Jabalya, Rafah, Al Bureij, and several refugee camps with the rallying cry, “We want to live,” in response to the high cost of living, widespread unemployment and energy shortages.

Hamas security officials arrested and beat protestors and journalists. Those who were injured and hospitalized were arrested when they left. Doctors who wrote in their medical reports that Hamas forces caused injuries were also beaten.

Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry, which is quick to release statistics of Palestinians injured by Israeli troops, refused to release the number of protesters injured by Hamas forces. Hamas officials explained that violent measures were used to disperse demonstrations because they harmed the “resistance to the occupation.”

An increasing number of Gazans, especially young Palestinians, are leaving, many traveling illegally to Europe. One poll found that 52% of respondents would accept an offer to emigrate. More than 90% expressed concern about youth migration, which they blamed primarily on the economy. Unemployment, lack of essential services, and internal divisions are also motivating factors.

Muhammad Hamada of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Development and Social Affairs disclosed in February 2020 that Hamas had disbursed nearly $80 million that Qatar had donated. According to Hamada, the money was distributed to 70,000 families, but when he detailed how the money was spent, 80% was unaccounted for.


Deterred by Israeli efforts to thwart physical terror attacks, Hamas operatives have recently turned to cyber warfare to inflict damage on Israelis. Hamas hackers have repeatedly used smartphone applications in attempts to steal data and record information from unsuspecting individuals, according to the Information Security Department of the IDF. The IDF launched Operation Broken Heart in early July 2018 to combat this new digital threat.

Hamas militants would reach out and befriend Israeli soldiers using fake accounts and photos on social media sites and then request the soldiers download “dating apps” called Glancelove and Winkchat. Once downloaded, these fake apps gave the Hamas operatives access to the user’s cellphone and allowed them to steal data and record audio and video. According to a senior IDF official, approximately 5% of IDF soldiers were contacted by these accounts and engaged in these conversations, and 100 soldiers downloaded the malicious apps.

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, a seemingly innocuous smartphone app named Golden Cup, which allowed users to view news and clips from the important sports tournament, was released and downloaded hundreds of times. Hamas developed this application to record calls, view text messages, steal data, and operate the microphone and camera at any time without knowing the phone’s owner.

The IDF subsequently released new guidelines instructing soldiers what to do if they encounter a suspicious profile on social media that they feel may be associated with Hamas and avoid downloading new or unknown apps to their phones.

Rocket and Mortar Arsenal

Hamas has approximately 5,000-6,000 rockets and missiles. These include:

  • M-75 - A rocket with limited accuracy and a range of fewer than 50 miles, but still capable of reaching Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
  • Grad is a Soviet-designed short to mid-range rocket with a range of about 25 miles.
  • WS-1E - An upgraded version of the Grad with a similar range.
  • J-80 - A long-range rocket manufactured by Hamas with a range of roughly 60 miles that can reach the Tel Aviv area, the southern Sharon region, and Jerusalem.
  • Qassam – A locally produced rocket made of metal pipe packed with explosives. It has little accuracy or explosive power and a range of about six miles.
  • Fajr – An Iranian-made rocket with greater explosive power and accuracy than most of the arsenal and a range of nearly 50 miles.
  • M-302 (Khaibar) – A Syrian-made rocket Iran supplies to Hamas with a maximum range of 125 miles.
  • R-160 - A long-range rocket produced by Hamas with a range of approximately 100 miles.
  • Sejjil-55 - A rocket with a maximum range of about 35 miles.
Click to enlarge

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades intensified its test-firing of missiles in 2019, including ten fired from the northern and southern Gaza Strip to the sea on July 3. These were the latest efforts to upgrade Hamas’s military capability.

U.S. Sanctions

The U.S. State Department announced the designation of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2018.

“One of the things that stands out from Treasury’s designations is that they all operate under the command of the Hamas political leadership, including Haniyeh,” said Matthew Levitt, of the Washington Institute. “All of the Treasury designations make clear they answer to the political bureau” that Haniyeh chairs.

In September 2019, the U.S. Treasury  Department announced sanctions against Turkey-based Zaher Jabarin, the head of Hamas’s Finance Office, who manages the group’s budget and is “focused on developing a financial network in Turkey that would allow Hamas to raise, invest, and launder money before transferring it to Gaza and the West Bank.” Jabarin has also served as the primary point of contact between Hamas and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The chief of the Palestinian Office of the IRGC in Lebanon, Muhammad Sa’id Izadi, was also sanctioned.

In May 2021, the Organization of American States, an international coalition of 35 countries in North and South America, designated Hamas a terrorist organization in light of the terrorists’ rocket barrages on Israel that prompted Operation Guardian of the Walls.

In May 2022, the U.S. sanctioned a Hamas finance official, three Hamas financial facilitators, and six companies that have generated revenue for the terrorist group by managing an international investment portfolio. According to the Treasury Department, ”Hamas’s Investment Office, whose leadership oversees this network, held assets estimated to be worth more than $500 million, including companies operating in Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

“Today’s action targets the individuals and companies that Hamas uses to conceal and launder funds,” said Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg. “Hamas has generated vast sums of revenue through its secret investment portfolio while destabilizing Gaza, which is facing harsh living and economic conditions. Hamas maintains a violent agenda that harms both Israelis and Palestinians. The United States is committed to denying Hamas the ability to generate and move funds and to holding Hamas accountable for its role in promoting and carrying out violence in the region.”

Following the October 7, 2023, massacre carried out by Hamas, the Treasury Department intensified its efforts to cut off Hamas’s funding sources, including announcing new sanctions against its leaders.

“The United States Treasury Department is laser-focused today on dismantling Hamas’s financial networks,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. “Hamas and associated terrorist groups have long sought to destroy Israel and attack those in the region and around the world that do not ascribe to their hate-filled ideology. These groups need financial resources to help fuel their hate. To do so, they have developed ways to access or circumvent our financial systems.”

One of the things that stands out from Treasury’s designations is that they all operate under the command of the Hamas political leadership, including Haniyeh,” said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute. “All of the Treasury designations make clear they answer to the political bureau” that Haniyeh chairs.

Saudi Arabia Turns On Hamas

In April 2019, Saudi Arabia arrested 68 members of Hamas and put them on public trial in March 2020 on the charges of belonging to a “terrorist entity” and “supporting and financing a terrorist organization.” According to Yoni Ben Menachem, the Saudis believe Hamas members were laundering money, which was first transferred to Turkey and from there to the Gaza Strip for terrorist activity against Israel.

According to Ben Menachem, this is a dramatic turn from the “golden age” between Hamas and Saudi Arabia that began in 1988 during the first intifada. At that time, Hamas opened an office in Riyadh headed by Mohammed al-Khodari, who is currently on trial. The Saudis allowed Hamas to raise funds in the Kingdom and provided financial assistance to the organization.

Ben Menachem says problems began after Hamas staged a coup to take power in Gaza from the Palestinian Authority. The Saudis mediated a reconciliation between Hamas and the PA, and an agreement was signed but never implemented because Hamas embarrassed the Saudis.

“Saudi Arabia’s disregard for Hamas’ requests to release the detainees and the fact that it turned to a public trial,” according to Ben Menachem, “indicates complete agreement with the United States and Israel on the war on terror.”

Hamas and Turkey

According to a report by James Rothwell, Turkey is granting citizenship to members of Hamas. A source told the Telegraph, “The Turkish Government gave in to pressure by Hamas to grant citizenship to its operatives, thereby allowing them to travel more freely, endangering other countries that have listed Hamas as a terror group.”

The story noted that “Turkish passport holders are entitled to visa-free travel to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Serbia, among other countries” and hope to secure similar rights to enter EU countries. This allows them greater opportunity to threaten Israelis in other parts of the world.

The Telegraph also disclosed that Hamas operatives in Istanbul were planning attacks, including an assassination plot against the mayor of Jerusalem conceived by Zacharia Najib, one of the men given Turkish citizenship.

Most of the Hamas operatives in Turkey were released as part of the deal to secure the release of Gilad Shalit in 2011. Israel has been upset by Turkish support for Hamas and Erdogan’s willingness to allow these men to live and make plans to attack Israel from Turkey.

In 2022, relations with Turkey began to improve; however, Israel conditioned a return of its ambassador to Istanbul and a return to normalcy on the expulsion of Hamas terrorists. The condition was later dropped and Irit Lillian, Israeli’s charge d’affaires in Ankara since January 2021, was formally recognized as Israel’s ambassador in December 2022. 

Arms Smuggling Revelations

The program “What is Hidden is Greater,” broadcast by Al Jazeera on September 13, 2020, revealed how members of the Al-Qassam Brigades collect unexploded Israeli munitions from Operation Protective Edge, metal water pipes left behind following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, and cannon shells from British warships that sank near Gaza during World War I to manufacture missiles.

The report also revealed that Iran has been shipping Fajr missiles and Kornet Anti-Tank shells to Hamas, evading Israeli security. An arms dealer in Gaza told Al-Monitor that Hamas has obtained Iranian R-160 and Fajr-5 missiles with a range of 62 miles, drones, anti-tank missiles, and shoulder-launched rockets produced by Russia, and intends to acquire Chinese anti-ship missiles and radar systems for guided missiles. Hamas also obtained arms from Syria and Sudan.

Rami Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian military expert, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ sudden disclosure aims to prove that the [Israeli] siege on Gaza has not prevented it from developing its military infrastructure, given the strenuous efforts it has been deploying to confront Israeli plans to prevent the arrival of weapons and ammunition supplies and to manufacture whatever missile components are available locally.”

Recruitment of Israeli Arabs

Hamas actively seeks to recruit Israeli Arabs for intelligence gathering. In February 2021, the Shin Bet arrested an Israeli-Arab who was “activated by the Hamas military wing in the Gaza Strip” to gather intelligence about the location of Iron Dome air defense batteries in Israel.

The investigation “sheds light on the technique and scope of Hamas’s military infrastructure,” the Shin Bet said. “This thwarting joins a series of thwarting operations conducted in 2020 regarding civilians from ‘split families’ [that reside in both Gaza and Israel] and who worked for the Hamas organization in the Gaza Strip.”

Operation Guardian of the Walls

Referring to the planned eviction of Palestinian families living on property belonging to Israelis, Hamas commander Muhammed Deif warned on May 4, “If the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood does not stop immediately, we will not stand idly by.”

At the time, Palestinians were also protesting on the Temple Mount because the police had prevented them from gathering outside the Damascus Gate (the order was later rescinded), disconnected loudspeakers, and otherwise interfered in the observance of Ramadan.

There was no particular tension along the Gaza border; nevertheless, Hamas saw a chance to demonstrate it was defending Jerusalem. The opportunity arose in the context of the decision by Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the Palestinian Authority elections out of fear Hamas was going to win, and he would be deposed. Attacking Israel would bring Hamas attention and, the group believed, win more significant support from the public for its willingness to fight.

Hamas was also likely motivated by the de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue during the Trump administration and the signing of the Abraham Accords, which ended the Palestinian veto over the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab/Muslim nations. They could not be ignored if they started a war with Israel.

These were the circumstances when Hamas and PIJ fired six rockets at Jerusalem on May 10, 2021, under the pretext they were defending the al-Aqsa Mosque and responding to the situation in Sheikh Jarrah.

This unprovoked and indiscriminate attack on Israel’s capital prompted Israel to respond with airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip. PIJ subsequently joined Hamas in firing thousands of rockets toward Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, and neighboring communities prompting Israel to launch Operation Guardian of the Walls with air raids targeting terrorist targets in the most significant outbreak of violence since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Israel learned more about Hamas’s capabilities during the fighting in May 2021. For example:

  • Hamas possesses rockets with larger payloads and longer ranges – up to 70-100 miles, covering Tel Aviv and northern Israel.
  • Hamas was developing new electronic warfare capabilities to degrade the effectiveness of the Iron Dome.
  • Hamas has sophisticated suicide drones that targeted an offshore natural gas platform and other targets.  Hamas also attempted to launch an explosive underwater drone for the first time.

Iron Dome minimized the rocket threat, an air strike destroyed the building where the electronic weapons were being developed, and the drones were neutralized. In addition, the Israeli Navy prevented attacks from the sea, and defenses at the Gaza border prevented the infiltration of Hamas commandos. Nevertheless, the advancements in the arsenal of Hamas were an indication that the organization works tirelessly during lulls in fighting to develop more sophisticated means to attack Israel.

A year after the operation, Hamas was preparing for the next battle. Prevented from building tunnels under the border, Hamas reportedly dug tunnels close to the border fence. The group also acquired drones and added about 1,000 rockets to its arsenal, emphasizing expanding their range and accuracy.

Establishing a Base in Lebanon

Hamas’ Deputy Commander Saleh al-Arouri and the Hamas branch in Turkey have been coordinating the buildup of the organization’s military capabilities in Lebanon to attack Israel on the northern front with the approval of Hezbollah and Iran. Hamas reportedly has several hundred members in the Palestinian refugee camps and is receiving help from Iran to manufacture rockets and drones.

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, a joint military operations post was purportedly established in Beirut with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Sinwar and al-Arouri were said to have coordinated a handful of rocket attacks from Lebanon during the fighting.

In December 2021, a weapons and ammunition depot in Tyre, Lebanon, exploded under the Hamas-affiliated Obei al-Kaab Mosque in the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp.

Operation Breaking Dawn

In response to threats, Israel arrested the head of Islamic Jihad and then launched an operation to kill the group’s other senior officials. Hamas did not join the fight or launch any rockets at Israel, even as IAF airstrikes hit PIJ targets in Gaza. Most analysts attributed the decision by Hamas to hold their fire to the desire to see PIJ weakened. The group also did not want to suffer more casualties and destruction after rebuilding after Operation Guardian of the Walls. Hamas also wanted to take credit for improving living conditions created by Israel’s decision to provide more work permits to Gazans, which it could claim were obtained without making any concessions.

Following the operation, Israel took steps to demonstrate that Hamas continued to locate military sites in urban areas in hopes of preempting criticism of future attacks on those targets. In a press briefing, the military identified multiple sites:

A weapons warehouse next to Shifa Hospital.
A tunnel used to store weapons in a Gaza City neighborhood near an elementary school.
A tunnel under a UNRWA school, an ambulance center, and a church.
A shaft that leads to a tunnel near al-Azar university that is close to a police station, an UNRWA school and headquarters, and a medical clinic.
A munition production facility in a residential building.
Several mosques.

“Today, the IDF revealed to the world examples of the depth of Hamas’s use of the civilian population, which it chooses to put in the front line of fire,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said. “The whole world should be exposed to the crimes committed by Hamas, and exact a heavy price for that.”

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups are reportedly offering cash incentives for shooting attacks on Israelis on condition that a video of the assault is published on social media.

As violence escalated following the operation, Hamas and PIJ were reportedly offering about $200 to shoot an Israeli if a video of the attack was posted on TikTok.

The October 7 Massacre

Israel was surprised by an invasion of an estimated 1,500 Hamas terrorists from Gaza on October 7, 2023, 50 years and a day after the 1973 War. Israel said there was no indication a sophisticated land, sea, and air attack by Hamas was imminent. As in 1973, the day of the assault was a holiday, this time the usually joyous celebration of Simchat Torah marking the end of Sukkot.

As much of a disaster as it was, the Yom Kippur War did not see dozens of civilians, including children, the elderly, and women, slaughtered and taken captive by the enemy. The number murdered on the first day of the war – 900, proportionally equivalent to 32,000 Americans – was the highest one-day Jewish death toll since the Holocaust. By October 12, the death toll had risen to more than 1,300, including 30 U.S. citizens. The terrorists, whose declared goal is the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews, murdered everyone they could, including Arabs, Thai workers, and a nurse from the Philippines.

Israel pledged to eliminate Hamas as a threat and to kill its leaders. During the fighting, much of its infrastructure was destroyed, leaders killed, and fighters captured or killed. On January 2, 2024, Al-Arouri was assassinated in an airstrike in Lebanon. He was one of the founding members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank, a planner of the October 7 massacre, a liaison between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, and the person who ordered the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in 2014, including dual U.S.–Israeli citizen Naftali Fraenkel. He was also wanted by the U.S. State Department and was labeled as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Azzam Al-Aqra and Samir Fendi, two commanders of the al-Qassam Brigades, were also killed. The strike demonstrated Israel’s will and capability to carry out its pledge to track down and kill everyone responsible for the massacre.

Mashal gave an interview in January 2024, in which he said Hamas said the attack on 10/7 “has turned the idea of liberating Palestine from the River to the Sea into a realistic idea that has already begun. It is not something [merely] to be expected or hoped for. It is part of the plan, part of the agenda, and we are standing on its threshold, Allah willing.”

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Photo: Hamas Military Wing - IDF/ICD/SMIS.