The Gaza Strip is currently the stronghold of Hamas, and has been since the Battle of Gaza was won against the Fatah branch of the Palestinian State. After the battle, Fatah expelled all Hamas officials from the West Bank, thereby creating a split Palestine.
Hamas was founded on the principles of Islamism, an ideology that states, “Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life.” It further advocates the selective removal of non-Islamic social, cultural, economic and political influences. Islamists, however, claim that they are only carrying out their religious beliefs.
Hamas was founded in 1987 as a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Their 1988 charter stipulates that Hamas was founded for the express purpose to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to form an independent Palestinian State that would include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the territory that is now Israel. In 2009 Hamas was willing to cooperate in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict providing it met several of their demands. When it became clear that any agreement would include Hamas’ recognition of the state of Israel, the response was that Hamas would never recognize Israel and that, “…this is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
In 2011, people of the Gaza Strip, the stronghold of Hamas, celebrated the group’s 24th anniversary. During the resulting celebration Hamas reiterated its intention to continue resistance against Israeli occupation until liberation and independence have been attained.
2011 was also the year that Gilad Shalit was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, thus ending his five-year captivity. Shalit was initially kidnapped during a raid near the Gaza border.
This event has apparently replayed itself with the recent abduction of Lt. Hadar Goldin. Goldin was kidnapped and dragged through an underground tunnel during a skirmish that killed two Israeli soldiers. Israel has gone through extraordinary lengths to free captured soldiers and this abduction threatens to escalate the current conflict.
In support of Israel, the United States Congress has approved a $225 million funding bill to replenish the Israeli missile defense system, the Iron Dome. This defense system has been highly effective against the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and has been credited with destroying dozens of incoming missiles over the course of this war. Already approved by Congress, the bill will now be forwarded to the President who is expected to sign it quickly.
The just-negotiated truce, enacted for humanitarian reasons, fell apart only hours after it began. At the core of the collapse was the kidnapping of Lt. Goldin. President Obama called for the release of Goldin and also stated that more must be done to protect the civilians of Gaza. While Hamas accused Israel of breaking the short-lived truce, Israel said it was responding to rocket fire.
Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 1,600 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that once a ceasefire was enacted, representatives from Israel and the Palestinians, including Hamas, would commence talks to establish a more durable truce.
The stronghold of Hamas, the Gaza Strip, has been battered relentlessly. Israel is intent of eliminating the Hamas threat once and for all. To do that it intends to disarm the group and to eradicate the tunnel network along its border.
By Hans Benes