Hamas History

An excerpt from:

Israel and Palestine Book


The first Palestinian suicide bombing inside Israel took place in April 1994 in response to the massacre at the Tomb of Abraham Mosque in Hebron in February that year.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the two bus attacks that followed in the towns of Afula and Hadera and murdered 13 innocent civilians and wounded 80.

Another bus was bombed in Tel Aviv in July, and in a further attack in the same city in October, 22 people died, and 40 were injured.

And there was Yitzhak Rabin, in the midst of all this violence, attempting to make peace with the perpetrators. His 25-year-old assassin, Yigal Amir, said he was happy that he had killed the Prime Minister.

As mentioned previously, Shimon Peres then called for early elections and tried to convince the hardliners that he could get tough on the terrorists. He took out Yahya Ayyash, the ‘Engineer’ of Hamas. In the wake of his killing, a huge backlash occurred against the Israeli general public.

On February the 26th 1996, a bomb exploded in Jerusalem killing 26 and wounding twice that many. An hour later, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a bus stop in Ashkelon used by soldiers for hitchhiking that left one dead and 30 wounded.

A week later, to the hour and day, again in Jerusalem, a bus exploded and destroyed 19 lives. The next day, in Tel Aviv, another suicide bomber killed 13 and wounded more than 130 people. By June, Israel had a new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Likud leader refused to countenance peace talks and instead chose to fight fire with fire. In March 1997, three Israelis had been killed in an explosion at a Tel Aviv cafe with almost 50 wounded. In July, two bombers simultaneously blew themselves up at an open-air market in Jerusalem in a joint operation between Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Netanyahu’s response was to order the assassination of the leader of the terrorist wing of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, at that time a resident of Jordan, but the operation was bungled and left King Hussein fuming.

In an attempt to placate their Arab ally, Israel agreed to release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from jail.

The wheelchair-bound Yassin was the overall leader of Hamas. His return to Gaza prompted a welcome that surpassed even that given to Yasser Arafat when he’d arrived back from Tunis.

Sheikh Yassin was the founder of the Islamic organisation that had come to mean so much to the Palestinian people. Hamas was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada, and was built on a platform of social welfare as well as military resistance to Israel. The stated aim of the organisation was to create an Islamic state in the land of historical Palestine. This, therefore, meant the destruction of Israel.

The social welfare aspect saw Hamas building schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, but its success in targeting the Israelis, and the assassination of its own leadership by IDF reprisal raids, had contributed much to the ongoing cycle of violence in the area.

Another group contributing to the carnage was Islamic Jihad. A loose connection of terrorist cells, they announced their determination to upset the Oslo Accords with two suicide bombings in Israel in 1995 and 1996, one of which killed 19 soldiers, and another a gruesome nail bomb in Tel Aviv. They remain one of the most potent of the Jihadi groups.

In June of 2002, the group exploded a car bomb beside an Israeli bus, murdering 17 people. On the 15th of November that year, an attack on settlers and soldiers in Hebron left 14 Israelis dead.

With no respite, Israel again targeted the leaders of the uprising and those directly behind the terror campaign. In March 2004, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, whilst being taken for a walk in his wheelchair, was struck by an IDF missile fired from the air. The direct hit left only the mangled wreckage of the disabled man’s transport and a pool of blood on the floor. It caused outrage, but was it any more shocking than the sight of an Israeli bus torn apart, where even more lives were lost?

Back with the government, the right-winger Netanyahu had lost the 1999 election to Ehud Barak of Labour, a former army general who promised to push for a settlement with the Palestinians to finally bring peace.

This commitment led directly to the talks at Camp David, where President Bill Clinton, in his last act of government, hoped to tie up the deal that had eluded him in the Oslo Accords of 1993.

Even as the two combatants, Arafat and Barak, made to follow Clinton indoors after another historic photo-shoot, neither could agree who should go first. It looked for all the world that they did not trust each other even to turn one’s back for a moment.

As could be derived from the body language, the talks would ultimately founder. The five-year anniversary of Oslo II would come and go, and the commitment given there for an autonomous Palestinian state produced nothing.

In this climate, Israeli Prime Ministerial candidate Ariel Sharon caused outrage when he visited the Temple Mount, home of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

The result of this act, on the back of the failed peace talks, was the Second Intifada. Unlike the first, it would be a war not only of stones but also of bombs.