Historical Background

Taking over – How Hamas rose to power

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Image Credit: Routers

The foundations of the present Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip lie in a violent past of fighting and factionalism among Palestinian parties. As a branch of the Gaza Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas first appeared in the late 1980s during the First Intifada, offering a radical Islamist alternative to the secular Palestinian nationalism groups. By establishing large social assistance networks and programs in Gaza, Hamas won the support of Palestinians who were dissatisfied with their living conditions.

In the 1990s, as the Oslo Accords and the peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) gained momentum, Hamas refused to make concessions to Israel. They committed suicide bombs and other actions intended to harm Israeli citizens, which led to severe Israeli military retaliation in Palestinian regions. Such actions were described by Hamas as justifiable resistance against occupation. However, these actions raised concerns among Palestinians due to the hefty expenditures on the general populace.

Image Credit: Flash 90

Disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is presided over by the Fatah party, grew in the late 1990s and early 2000s after years of controlling small autonomous sections of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas has been the de facto authority in Gaza since shortly after Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005. The following year, Hamas won a majority of seats in the PA’s legislature and formed a government. It earned votes for the social services it provided and as a rejection of the incumbent Fatah, which many voters perceived as having grown corrupt at the helm of the PLO and delivering little to Palestinians through its negotiations with Israel. The outcome was unacceptable to Fatah and its Western backers, and the party ousted Hamas from power in the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas routed Fatah’s militias in a week of fighting, resulting in a political schism between the two Palestinian territories. Palestinians have not voted for a legislature since 2006, nor a president since 2008. As Hamas took over the remnants of PA institutions in the strip, it established a judiciary and put in place authoritarian institutions.

Periodic hostilities between Hamas and Israel have included missile launches and armed conflict in Gaza. They defend these violent conflicts as justifiable protests against the oppressive Israeli occupation and embargo measures that hurt Gazans. Critics, however, deplore the harm done to Gaza’s populace and the targeting of Israeli citizens.

The authority of Islam and Palestinian self-determination are upheld by Hamas in Gaza. But their philosophy and resources have been limited by the need to remain in power. Hamas uses severe methods, such as arbitrary detentions and torture, to repress dissent and opposition in Gaza. Human rights activists have denounced such dictatorial actions

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