Hamas Fighting to Survive Amid Shattered State

March 14, 2024 | by


Hamas, the Palestinian political party and militant group, is facing a critical moment as it fights to survive amid the aftermath of recent conflicts. Having been shattered by the impact of the Israel-Hamas war and its long-standing struggle for recognition and control, Hamas is now grappling with the challenges of rebuilding and regaining its footing in a shattered state. With its infrastructure decimated and its credibility questioned, Hamas must navigate a complex landscape to ensure its survival and maintain its influence in the region. The future of Hamas hangs in the balance as it confronts the daunting task of rebuilding and regaining support amidst a state of upheaval.

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Background on Hamas

Hamas, an abbreviation of Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, meaning the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a Palestinian political and military organization. It was founded in 1987 during the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories. Hamas emerged as a result of growing frustrations among Palestinians with the lack of progress in achieving their aspirations for self-determination and an independent state.

Origins of Hamas

Hamas originated within the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was established as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization founded in Egypt in 1928. The founders of Hamas, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, aimed to create a Palestinian resistance movement based on Islamic principles and to challenge the secular leadership provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

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Role of Hamas in Palestinian politics

Hamas has played a significant role in shaping Palestinian politics since its inception. It has been able to mobilize popular support among Palestinians through its network of social services and its reputation for resisting Israeli occupation. In the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas won a majority of seats, leading to a brief period of Hamas-dominated governance in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ relationship with Israel

Hamas is known for its long-running hostility towards Israel. It does not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state and has been involved in numerous armed confrontations with Israeli forces. Hamas has used various tactics, including suicide bombings and rocket attacks, in its resistance against Israeli occupation. The organization’s charter explicitly calls for the complete liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place.

Current Challenges Faced by Hamas

Impact of recent conflicts

Hamas has faced significant challenges in recent years, particularly due to the repeated conflicts with Israel. These conflicts have resulted in substantial damage to infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas primarily operates. The devastation caused by Israeli military operations has severely impacted the daily lives of Palestinians in Gaza, leading to growing public dissatisfaction.

Internal divisions within Hamas

Hamas has also faced internal divisions and power struggles. There have been disagreements within the organization regarding its approach to the peace process with Israel and the use of violence as a means of resistance. These internal divisions have at times hindered Hamas’ ability to present a united front and have fueled tensions within the organization.

Financial struggles

Hamas has struggled with financial constraints, particularly due to international sanctions imposed on the organization. Many countries and international organizations, including the United States and the European Union, consider Hamas a terrorist organization. This designation has led to restrictions on funding and limited Hamas’ ability to carry out its activities effectively.

Hamas’ Strategy for Survival

Maintaining popular support

Hamas recognizes the importance of maintaining popular support among Palestinians to ensure its survival. The organization has invested heavily in providing social services, including healthcare, education, and welfare programs, to the people in the areas it governs. By meeting the basic needs of Palestinians, Hamas seeks to strengthen its legitimacy and appeal as a governing body.


Building alliances with other Palestinian factions

Hamas has sought to build alliances and partnerships with other Palestinian factions, particularly the rival political party Fatah. Despite their historical differences and clashes, Hamas and Fatah have engaged in reconciliation efforts and formed temporary unity governments. These alliances are aimed at presenting a unified Palestinian front and enhancing Hamas’ political position.

Seeking international support

Hamas has made efforts to secure international support, particularly from countries in the region and organizations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The organization has sought financial assistance and diplomatic recognition from countries such as Iran, Qatar, and Turkey. By forging alliances and gaining international favor, Hamas aims to strengthen its position and gain leverage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas’ Military Capabilities

Weapons and arsenal

Hamas maintains an arsenal of weapons, including rockets, mortars, and small arms. These weapons are primarily used for targeted attacks against Israeli military forces and civilian populations. Hamas has developed homemade rockets, such as Qassam rockets, and has also procured more advanced weaponry through clandestine channels.

Tunnel network

One of Hamas’ significant military capabilities is its extensive tunnel network. These tunnels, often built underground or within buildings, serve multiple purposes. They are used for smuggling weapons and supplies into the Gaza Strip, as well as for conducting surprise attacks on Israeli forces. The tunnel network also provides shelter and protection for Hamas fighters during Israeli military operations.

Training and recruitment

Hamas invests in training and recruiting fighters to bolster its military capabilities. Training camps and facilities have been established to provide military training, ideological indoctrination, and tactical knowledge to Hamas members. They aim to build a strong and disciplined fighting force capable of carrying out attacks against Israeli targets.

Hamas’ Governance in Gaza

Social services and infrastructure

Despite being labeled as a terrorist organization by some countries, Hamas has established a governance infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. It has implemented social service programs, including healthcare clinics, schools, and welfare assistance, to meet the basic needs of the population. Hamas has also invested in infrastructure projects, such as the construction of roads and public buildings, to improve living conditions.

Security and law enforcement

As the de facto governing authority in Gaza, Hamas is responsible for maintaining internal security and law enforcement. It has established a security apparatus, including police forces and intelligence agencies, to combat crime and maintain order within its territory. However, the methods employed by Hamas in enforcing security have been criticized for their heavy-handedness and violations of human rights.

Public perception of Hamas’ governance

The public perception of Hamas’ governance in Gaza is complex and multifaceted. While some Palestinians appreciate the social services and infrastructure provided by Hamas, others criticize its authoritarian tendencies and restrictions on civil liberties. The ongoing Israeli blockade and military operations in Gaza have also influenced public sentiment towards Hamas, with some viewing it as a resistance force defending against Israeli aggression.

Regional and International Factors Impacting Hamas

Relations with neighboring countries

Hamas’ relations with neighboring countries play a significant role in shaping its future prospects. Egypt has historically viewed Hamas with suspicion due to its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and has imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people between Egypt and Gaza. Conversely, countries like Iran and Qatar have provided financial and political support to Hamas, enhancing its regional influence.

Impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a direct impact on Hamas’ future. The lack of progress in achieving a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians fuels frustration and discontent among Palestinian populations, creating a fertile ground for Hamas’ message of resistance. Any escalation of hostilities or breakthrough in peace negotiations will have significant implications for Hamas’ role in Palestinian politics.

Influence of external actors

Various external actors have sought to influence Hamas’ trajectory and role in the region. Israel, the United States, and many European countries consider Hamas a terrorist organization and have imposed sanctions on the group. In contrast, countries like Iran and Turkey have provided Hamas with political and financial support. The conflicting interests of these external actors further complicate the dynamics surrounding Hamas.

Hamas’ Role in the Palestinian Resistance Movement

Hamas’ ideology and goals

Hamas’ ideology is rooted in Islamic fundamentalism and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in historic Palestine. It views armed resistance as a legitimate means to achieve this goal and rejects negotiations and compromises with Israel. Hamas considers itself a key player in the broader Palestinian resistance movement alongside other factions, such as Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

Collaboration with other resistance groups

Hamas has engaged in collaborations and coordination with other Palestinian resistance groups in its fight against Israeli occupation. It has cooperated with Islamic Jihad and other armed factions, particularly during periods of intense conflict with Israel. Such collaborations aim to maximize the effectiveness of resistance activities and strengthen the collective Palestinian front.

Role in armed resistance

Hamas has been at the forefront of armed resistance against Israeli forces. It has carried out numerous attacks targeting Israeli military personnel and civilians through tactics like suicide bombings, shootings, and rocket attacks. These acts of violence serve both as a means of retaliation against Israeli aggression and as a way to bolster Hamas’ image as a defender of Palestinian rights.

Potential Scenarios for Hamas’ Future

Continued conflict with Israel

One potential scenario for Hamas’ future is the continuation of the status quo, marked by intermittent escalations of conflicts with Israel. This scenario would likely perpetuate the cycle of violence and maintain Hamas’ role as a resistance force. However, it would also prolong the suffering of Palestinians and hinder efforts towards a peaceful resolution.

Reconciliation with Fatah

Another scenario is the possibility of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, leading to the formation of a unified Palestinian leadership. This scenario would require overcoming deep-seated ideological and political differences between the two factions. While such reconciliation could strengthen the Palestinian cause, challenges in power-sharing and decision-making may arise.

Shift towards political participation

Hamas could also choose to shift its focus towards political participation rather than armed resistance. This scenario would involve Hamas renouncing violence and engaging in political negotiations with Israel. However, this shift would require significant ideological and strategic reorientation, potentially leading to internal divisions within Hamas.

International Community’s Response to Hamas

Designation as a terrorist organization

The international community’s response to Hamas has largely been shaped by its designation as a terrorist organization by several countries. The United States, European Union, and many other nations consider Hamas to be a terrorist group. This designation has resulted in various measures, including sanctions and restrictions on Hamas’ activities, as well as limited diplomatic engagement.

Engagement or isolation?

The international community remains divided over whether to engage with or isolate Hamas. Some argue that engagement could potentially moderate the organization and pave the way for a political resolution. Others believe that isolating Hamas is necessary to maintain pressure and deter its activities. Continued debate over the most effective approach hampers a unified international response.

Efforts to mediate conflicts

Various regional and international actors have made efforts to mediate conflicts between Hamas and Israel. Countries like Egypt and Qatar have played significant roles in brokering ceasefire agreements and facilitating negotiations between the parties. These mediation efforts aim to reduce violence, protect civilian lives, and create space for political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Conclusion: Uncertainty and Challenges Ahead for Hamas

Hamas faces significant challenges and uncertainties as it strives to survive in a volatile geopolitical landscape. The impact of recent conflicts, internal divisions, and financial struggles put immense pressure on the organization. However, Hamas’ strategy of maintaining popular support, building alliances, and seeking international backing allows it to navigate these challenges.

The organization’s military capabilities, governance in Gaza, and role in the Palestinian resistance movement contribute to its resilience. Regional and international factors, including relationships with neighboring countries, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and influences from external actors, also shape Hamas’ trajectory.

The international community’s response to Hamas, including its designation as a terrorist organization and diverging approaches to engagement or isolation, adds another layer of complexity.

Moving forward, Hamas must adapt to changing circumstances, respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of Palestinians, and navigate geopolitical dynamics that impact its future. Ultimately, Hamas’ ability to navigate these challenges will have significant implications not only for itself but also for the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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