Hamas' armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades hold a Palestinian flag as they destroy a tank of Israeli forces in Gaza City, Gaza on October 07, 2023. (Photo by Hani Alshaer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades hold a Palestinian flag as they destroy a tank of Israeli forces in Gaza City (Picture: Hani Alshaer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The war between Israel and Hamas rages on as rockets shower Gaza and other atrocities affect civilians across the nation.

Israeli forces vowed to turn the Gaza Strip into ‘rubble’ following a surprise attack by Hamas.

The country has launched retaliatory strikes in over 200 locations throughout Gaza, killing more than 700 people and injuring 4,000 more after Hamas troops breached the Gaza border and killed hundreds of civilians, taking scores more hostage.

Follow our live blog for latest updates on the Israel-Hamas war.

So far the conflict has claimed more than 1,700 lives on both sides, with over 187,500 people displaced from the Strip.

As the war continues, many have wondered what Hamas is, when it was founded, and why the group is attacking Israel.

Here’s everything we know about the militant group.

What is Hamas?

Hamas is a Palestinian militant group formed in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee in Gaza.

The name Hamas is the Arabic acronym for ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’ and is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian group founded in the 1920s.

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The group came together during the first intifada in the country, also known as an uprising, which saw widespread protests against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

In 2006, Hamas won Palestine’s presidential election after beating rival political party Fatah, and in 2007, they took control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has renounced the Oslo Accord signed by Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993 which established a self-government for parts of the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinian Authority.

Who are the leaders?

Hamas has a number of leaders across the organisation that cover political, military, and other functions.

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh is the current senior political leader of Hamas (Picture: Getty)

Ismail Haniyeh has been the group’s political chief since 2017 following Khaled Meshaal. Hamas’ founder, Yassin, was killed by Israeli forces in 2004.

Yahya Sinwar oversees affairs in Gaza after previously heading the military operations of Hamas, which is now controlled by Marwan Issa and Mohammed Deif.

The Lebanon branch of Hamas is reportedly controlled by Saleh al-Arouri who also took over the group’s West Bank leadership.

Why are they attacking Israel?

Hamas has called for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel and over the years has carried out numerous suicide bombings and launched rockets into the country.

The group launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7 which saw them kill hundreds of civilians, Israeli armed forces, and take hostages.

Thousands of rockets were fired into southern and central Israel, with Hamas militants also breaching the Gaza border.

The assault, known as Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, was described by Deif as ‘the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth.’

Haniyeh said on Saturday that the group was ‘engaged in these historic moments in a heroic operation’ to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

‘This was the morning of defeat and humiliation upon our enemy, its soldiers and its settlers. What happened reveals the greatness of our preparation. What happened today reveals the weakness of the enemy,’ he continued.

Is Hamas a terrorist organisation in the UK?

Hamas was deemed a terrorist group in its entirety as of 2021.

This means that members of Hamas or those who invite support for the group could be jailed for up to 14 years.

During coverage of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, the BBC has been criticised for not using the word ‘terrorist.’

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps told LBC: ‘I actually think it is verging on disgraceful, this idea that there is some sort of equivalence, and they’ll always say, well there’s two sides,” he told LBC.

He continued: ‘They are not freedom fighters, they are not militants, they are pure and simple terrorists and it’s remarkable to go to the BBC website and still see them talking about gunmen and militants and not calling them terrorists.’

However, a BBC spokesperson defended the coverage, saying: ‘We always take our use of language very seriously.

‘Anyone watching or listening to our coverage will hear the word “terrorist” used many times – we attribute it to those who are using it, for example, the UK Government.

‘This is an approach that has been used for decades and is in line with that of other broadcasters.

‘The BBC is an editorially independent broadcaster whose job is to explain precisely what is happening “on the ground” so our audiences can make their own judgement.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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