Hamas is an Islamist organization with a military wing that came into being in 1987, emerging out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group that was founded in the late 1920s in Egypt.
The word “Hamas” is itself an acronym for “Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia” – Arabic for Islamic Resistance Movement.
The group, like most Palestinian factions and political parties, insists that Israel is an occupying power and that it is trying to liberate the Palestinian territories. It considers Israel an illegitimate state.
Its refusal to recognize Israel is one reason why it has rejected peace talks in the past. In 1993, it opposed the Oslo Accords, a peace pact between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The group presents itself as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has recognized Israel and has engaged in multiple failed peace initiatives with it. The PA is today led by Mahmoud Abbas and is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas, meanwhile, controls the Gaza Strip, an enclave that is home to some 2 million Palestinians and is frequently the site of civilian casualties when fighting flares between militants and Israeli forces.
Hamas has over the years claimed many attacks on Israel and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel. Israel accuses its archenemy Iran of backing Hamas.