Yasser Arafat, who has died in Paris, was the instantly recognisable face of Palestinian nationalism but failed in both war and peace to achieve his dream of an independent Palestinian state.
Mr Arafat, a 75-year-old ex-insurgent leader who was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, was an icon for his people.
Palestinians revered him as a nationalist symbol of their quest for statehood but many Israelis reviled him as "the face of terror".
To admirers, he braved adversity time after time to stand up for his people's rights, firstly in exile and for the last decade in the West Bank.
To his detractors, he was a master of miscalculation who "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity".
Many Israelis would never forgive him for a string of bombings, plane hijackings and other attacks by his Palestine Liberation Organisation in earlier decades, nor believe that he ever really changed his ways despite a public pledge for peace.
"The thing that keeps me going, the most precious thing that is always on my mind, is the regaining of dignity for the Palestinian people and restoring the name of Palestine to the map of the Middle East," he said.
Once an insurgent hero across much of the Middle East and later lauded as a historic peacemaker, he ended his days with little power, curtailed by Israeli wrath and facing opposition from Islamists and others who blamed his rule for corruption.
Mr Arafat survived plots and assassination attempts, a plane crash, isolation by Israel in his West Bank headquarters, and military defeats both to Israel and to Arab forces in countries where PLO fighters wore out their welcome.
He won the Nobel Peace prize along with Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for interim peace accords he signed with Israel on the White House lawn in 1993.
But Israel and the United States lost faith in him after the failure of a US-sponsored peace summit in July 2000 and during a now four-year-old Palestinian uprising.
Many accused him of having missed an opportunity, others said he could not have accepted a deal unless all the Palestinians' demands had been answered.
The Israelis and Americans accused him of fomenting violence and declared him irrelevant. Israel destroyed his Gaza headquarters, devastated much of his West Bank compound and kept him penned in there for more than two-and-a-half years.
Mr Arafat denied inciting bloodshed and vowed to press on with his struggle for Palestinian statehood despite repeated Israeli threats to "remove" him.
At times looking ill and weak, at others bolstered by the support of Palestinians who rallied to his side, Mr Arafat fended off Israeli attempts to bypass him and remained the dominant figure in Palestinian politics.
Mr Arafat led the Palestinian movement for four decades.
"We say that there can be no peace without Jerusalem and no peace with (Israeli) settlements," he said in 1997, outlining his official goal of a state with East Jerusalem as its capital and shorn of Israeli settlers.
He remained the leader of the PLO through its violent ejection from Jordan in 1970 and expulsion from Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion.
His shift from insurgent to peacemaker brought him home in triumph to the Gaza Strip in July 1994. To Palestinians, even those lukewarm to his leadership, Mr Arafat was simply Abu Ammar, his Arabic nom de guerre, or plain al-Khityar - "The Old Man".
For the world, the abiding image is of a beaming Mr Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn with his former nemesis Mr Rabin in 1993 to seal the Oslo interim peace accords.
The Oslo deals with Israel brought Palestinians a measure of self-rule for the first time. They also brought Mr Arafat international legitimacy in return for recognising the Jewish state and renouncing violence.
Israel recognised the PLO, but the accords did not secure Palestinians the state Mr Arafat aspired to lead.
Another image is of him addressing the United Nations general assembly in the 1970s, saying he spoke to delegates with an olive branch in one hand and a gun in the other.
A US-backed peace "road map" in 2003 envisioned a Palestinian state in 2005, but the plan was derailed by persistent violence.
It was further overshadowed by a unilateral Israeli plan to pull out of Gaza that Palestinians say will entrench Israel's hold on the far larger West Bank and kill dreams of a state on lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Vowing to die for his cause if Israeli forces ever tried to pluck him from his West Bank headquarters, he said: "Die a martyr? Yes. Is there anyone in Palestine who does not dream of martyrdom?"
To detractors, however, Arafat was prone to miscalculation.
They say he repeatedly misjudged the political wind until his disastrous support for Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War cost him the backing of wealthy Gulf oil states and forced him to the negotiating table and an unequal accommodation with Israel.
His "peace of the brave", finally accepting Israel's right to exist within borders it established on much of historic Palestine in 1948, split the PLO.
It also put him firmly at odds with Islamic militants who were to form the most potent opposition to the Oslo peace deals.
Many Israelis found it hard to believe Mr Arafat could change into a man of peace, a perception that hardened during the most recent Palestinian uprising when Islamic militants killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.
Palestinian critics said Mr Arafat installed a one-party system in the West Bank and Gaza rife with cronyism and run so single-handedly that only he could sign public sector cheques.
In recent months Mr Arafat faced unprecedented Palestinian unrest, including kidnappings and clashes in Gaza, as rivals vied for power in his greatest internal challenge in a decade.
To many Palestinians, his administration turned a blind eye to corruption, misrule and human rights abuses by the entourage that returned with him from exile.
Mr Arafat never groomed a successor, either as chairman of the PLO or as president of the self-rule Palestinian Authority.
When forced to appoint a prime minister under international pressure to share responsibilities and carry out reforms, he guarded his powers jealously.
The first prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, quit after four months. The second, Ahmed Qurie, battled Arafat for control of the security forces.
Mr Arafat was born Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini on August 24, 1929, to a modest trading family.
Leading biographies say he was born in Cairo where his merchant father had settled, although Mr Arafat himself claimed to have been born in Jerusalem.
A long-time bachelor who said he was wedded to the Palestinian cause, Mr Arafat took his people by surprise in 1992 when he married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Christian half his age. Their daughter, Zahwa, was born in 1995.
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa (/ˈærəˌfæt, ˈɑːrəˌfɑːt/; Arabic: محمد ياسر عبد الرحمن عبد الرؤوف عرفات; 24 August 1929 – 11 November 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat (Arabic: ياسر عرفات , Yāsir `Arafāt) or by his kunya Abu Ammar (Arabic: أبو عمار , 'Abū `Ammār), was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004. Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.
Arafat was born to Palestinian parents in Cairo, Egypt, where he spent most of his youth and studied at the University of King Fuad I. While a student, he embraced Arab nationalist and anti-Zionist ideas. Opposed to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, he fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Returning to Cairo, he served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students from 1952 to 1956. In the latter part of the 1950s he co-founded Fatah, a paramilitary organisation seeking the disestablishment of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Fatah operated within several Arab countries, from where it launched attacks on Israeli targets. In the latter part of the 1960s Arafat's profile grew; in 1967 he joined the PLO and in 1969 was elected chair of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Fatah's growing presence in Jordan resulted in military clashes with King Hussein's Jordanian government and in the early 1970s it relocated to Lebanon. There, Fatah assisted the Lebanese National Movement during the Lebanese Civil War and continued its attacks on Israel, resulting in it becoming a major target of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions.
From 1983 to 1993, Arafat based himself in Tunisia, and began to shift his approach from open conflict with the Israelis to negotiation. In 1988, he acknowledged Israel's right to exist and sought a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 1994 he returned to Palestine, settling in Gaza City and promoting self-governance for the Palestinian territories. He engaged in a series of negotiations with the Israeli government to end the conflict between it and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. In 1994 Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. At the time, Fatah's support among the Palestinians declined with the growth of Hamas and other militant rivals. In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat fell into a coma and died. While the cause of Arafat's death has remained the subject of speculation, investigations by Russian and French teams determined no foul play was involved.
Arafat remains a controversial figure. The majority of the Palestinian people view him as a heroic freedom fighter and martyr who symbolized the national aspirations of his people. Conversely, most Israelis came to regard him as an unrepentant terrorist, while Palestinian rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government.
Umbrella political organization claiming to represent the world’s Palestinians—those Arabs, and their descendants, who lived in mandated Palestine before the creation there of the State of Israel in 1948. It was formed in 1964 to centralize the leadership of various Palestinian groups that previously had operated as clandestine resistance movements. It came into prominence only after the Six-Day War of June 1967, however, and engaged in a protracted guerrilla war against Israel during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s before entering into peace negotiations with that country in the 1990s.
After the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 the Arab states, notably Egypt, took the lead in the political and military struggle against Israel. The Palestinians themselves had been dispersed among a number of countries, and—lacking an organized central leadership—many Palestinians formed small, diffuse resistance organizations, often under the patronage of the various Arab states; as a result, Palestinian political activity was limited.
The PLO was created at an Arab summit meeting in 1964 in order to bring various Palestinian groups together under one organization, but at first it did little to enhance Palestinian self-determination. The PLO’s legislature, the Palestine National Council (PNC), was composed of members from the civilian population of various Palestinian communities, and its charter (the Palestine National Charter, or Covenant) set out the goals of the organization, which included the complete elimination of Israeli sovereignty in Palestine and the destruction of the State of Israel. Yet, the PLO’s first chairman, a former diplomat named Aḥmad Shuqayrī, was closely tied to Egypt, its military force (the Palestine Liberation Army, formed in 1968) was integrated into the armies of surrounding Arab states, and the militant guerrilla organizations under its auspices had only limited influence on PLO policy. Likewise, although the PLO received its funding from taxes levied on the salaries of Palestinian workers, for decades the organization also depended heavily on the contributions of sympathetic countries.
EXPANSION AND THE RISE OF YĀSIR ʿARAFĀT
It was only after the defeat of the Arab states by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967 that the PLO began to be widely recognized as the representative of the Palestinians and came to promote a distinctively Palestinian agenda. The defeat discredited the Arab states, and Palestinians sought greater autonomy in their struggle with Israel. In 1968 leaders of Palestinian guerrilla factions gained representation in the PNC, and the influence of the more militant and independent-minded groups within the PLO increased. Major PLO factions or those associated with it included Fatah (since 1968 the preeminent faction within the PLO), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and al-Ṣāʿiqah. Over the decades the PLO’s membership has varied as its constituent bodies have reorganized and disagreed internally. The more radical factions have remained steadfast in their goals of the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a secular state in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians would, ostensibly, participate as equals. Moderate factions within the PLO, however, have proved willing to accept a negotiated settlement with Israel that would yield a Palestinian state, which at times has led to internecine violence.
In 1969 Yāsir ʿArafāt, leader of Fatah, was named the PLO’s chairman. From the late 1960s the PLO organized and launched guerrilla attacks against Israel from its bases in Jordan, which prompted significant Israeli reprisals and led to instability within Jordan. This, in turn, brought the PLO into growing conflict with the government of King Ḥussein of Jordan in 1970, and in 1971 the PLO was forcibly expelled from the country by the Jordanian army. Thereafter the PLO shifted its bases to Lebanon and continued its attacks on Israel. The PLO’s relations with the Lebanese were tumultuous, and the organization soon became embroiled in Lebanon’s sectarian disputes and contributed to that country’s eventual slide into civil war. During that time, factions within the PLO shifted from attacks on military targets to a strategy of terrorism—a policy the organization fervently denied embracing—and a number of high-profile attacks, including bombings and aircraft hijackings, were staged by PLO operatives against Israeli and Western targets.
From 1974 ʿArafāt advocated an end to the PLO’s attacks on targets outside of Israel and sought the world community’s acceptance of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In 1974 the Arab heads of state recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians, and the PLO was admitted to full membership in the Arab League in 1976. Yet the PLO was excluded from the negotiations between Egypt and Israel that resulted in 1979 in a peace treaty that returned the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt but failed to win Israel’s agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel’s desire to destroy the PLO and its bases in Lebanon led Israel to invade that country in June 1982. Israeli troops soon surrounded the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which for several years had been the PLO’s headquarters. Following negotiations, PLO forces evacuated Beirut and were transported to sympathetic Arab countries.
Increasing dissatisfaction with ʿArafāt’s leadership arose in the PLO after he withdrew from Beirut to Tunis, Tun., and in 1983 Syrian-backed PLO rebels supported by Syrian troops forced ʿArafāt’s remaining troops out of Lebanon. ʿArafāt retained the support of some Arab leaders and eventually was able to reassert his leadership of the PLO.
TWO INTIFĀḌAHS AND THE SEARCH FOR PEACE
Bereft of bases from which PLO forces might attack the Jewish state and encouraged by the success of a popular uprising, the intifāḍah (Arabic: “shaking off”), that began in 1987 in the occupied territories, the PLO leadership developed a more flexible and conciliatory policy toward peace with Israel. On Nov. 15, 1988, the PLO proclaimed the “State of Palestine,” a kind of government-in-exile; and on April 2, 1989, the PNC elected ʿArafāt president of the new quasi-state. The PLO during this period also recognized United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, thereby tacitly acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. It thus abandoned its long-standing goal of replacing Israel with a secular, democratic state in Palestine in favour of a policy accepting separate Israeli and Palestinian states, with the latter occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
ʿArafāt’s decision to support Iraq during the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War alienated the PLO’s key financial donors among the gulf oil states and contributed to a further softening of its position regarding peace with Israel. In April 1993 the PLO under ʿArafāt’s leadership entered secret negotiations with Israel on a possible peace settlement between the two sides. The first document in a set of Israel-PLO agreements—generally termed the Oslo Accords—was signed on Sept. 13, 1993, by ʿArafāt and the leaders of the Israeli government. The agreements called for mutual recognition between the two sides and set out conditions under which the West Bank and Gaza would be gradually handed over to the newly formed Palestinian Authority, of which ʿArafāt was to become the first president. This transfer was originally to have taken place over a five-year interim period in which Israel and the Palestinians were to have negotiated a permanent settlement. Despite some success, however, negotiations faltered sporadically throughout the 1990s and collapsed completely amid increasing violence—dubbed Al-Aqṣā intifāḍah—in late 2000. This second uprising had a distinctly religious character, and militant Islamic groups such as Ḥamās, which had come to the fore during the first intifāḍah, attracted an ever-larger following and threatened the PLO’s dominance within Palestinian society.
Alternative Titles: Ḥamās, Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, Islamic Resistance Movement
Hamas, also spelled Ḥamās, acronym of Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, English: Islamic Resistance Movement, militant Islamic Palestinian nationalist movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine. Founded in 1987, Hamas opposed the secular approach of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and rejected attempts to cede any part of Palestine. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
From the late 1970s, Islamic activists connected with the pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood established a network of charities, clinics, and schools and became active in the territories (the Gaza Strip and West Bank) occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War. In Gaza they were active in many mosques, while their activities in the West Bank generally were limited to the universities. The Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in these areas were generally nonviolent, but a number of small groups in the occupied territories began to call for jihad, or holy war, against Israel. In December 1987, at the beginning of the Palestinian intifadah (Arabic intifāḍah, “shaking off”) uprising against Israeli occupation, Hamas (which also is an Arabic word meaning “zeal”) was established by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and religious factions of the PLO, and the new organization quickly acquired a broad following. In its 1988 charter, Hamas maintained that Palestine is an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and that waging holy war to wrest control of Palestine from Israel is a religious duty for Palestinian Muslims. This position brought it into conflict with the PLO, which in 1988 recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas soon began to act independently of other Palestinian organizations, generating animosity between the group and its secular nationalist counterparts. Increasingly violent Hamas attacks on civilian and military targets impelled Israel to arrest a number of Hamas leaders in 1989, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s founder. In the years that followed, Hamas underwent reorganization to reinforce its command structure and locate key leaders out of Israel’s reach. A political bureau responsible for the organization’s international relations and fund-raising was formed in Amman, Jordan, electing Khaled Meshaal as its head in 1996, and the group’s armed wing was reconstituted as the ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Qassām Forces.
Jordan expelled Hamas leaders from Amman in 1999, accusing them of having used their Jordanian offices as a command post for military activities in the West Bank and Gaza. In 2001 the political bureau established new headquarters in Damascus, Syria. It moved again in 2012, to Doha, Qatar, after leadership failed to support the Assad government in its crackdown on the Syrian uprising.
Position On The Peace Process
From its foundation, Hamas rejected negotiations that would cede any land. The group denounced the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the PLO and, along with the Islamic Jihad group, subsequently intensified its terror campaign using suicide bombers. The PLO and Israel responded with harsh security and punitive measures, although PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, seeking to include Hamas in the political process, appointed Hamas members to leadership positions in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The collapse of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000 led to an increase in violence that came to be known as the Aqṣā intifadah. That conflict was marked by a degree of violence unseen in the first intifadah, and Hamas activists further escalated their attacks on Israelis and engaged in a number of suicide bombings in Israel itself.
In the years after the Aqṣā intifadah, Hamas began to moderate its views toward the peace process. After more than a decade of rejecting the foundational principles of the PA, Hamas ran in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and subsequently participated in the PA, with indications that it would accept agreements between Israel and the PA. Since then, senior Hamas leaders have repeatedly stated their willingness to support a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. This willingness was enshrined in the 2017 Document of General Principles and Policies.
CONTROL OF THE GAZA STRIP
In early 2005 Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a suspension of hostilities as Israel prepared to withdraw troops from some Palestinian territories. After much negotiation, Hamas agreed to the cease-fire, although sporadic violence continued. Later that year, Israel unilaterally dismantled settlements in and withdrew troops from the Gaza Strip.
In the 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas won a surprise victory over Fatah, capturing the majority of seats. The two groups eventually formed a coalition government, with Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as prime minister. Clashes between Hamas and Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip intensified, however, prompting Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led government and declare a state of emergency in June 2007. Hamas was left in control of the Gaza Strip, while a Fatah-led emergency cabinet had control of the West Bank.
In April 2011 Hamas and Fatah officials announced that the two sides had reached a reconciliation agreement in negotiations mediated by Egypt. The agreement, signed in Cairo on May 4, called for the formation of an interim government to organize legislative and presidential elections. After months of negotiations over the leadership of the interim government, the two parties announced in February 2012 that they had selected Abbas for the post of interim president.
Hamas’s relations with the governments of Syria and Iran, two of its primary sources of support, were strained in 2011 when Hamas leaders in Damascus conspicuously avoided expressing support for a crackdown by Syrian armed forces against antigovernment protesters inside the country. In early 2012 Hamas leaders left Syria for Egypt and Qatar and then publicly declared their support for the Syrian opposition. Iranian support for Hamas, which by some estimates had exceeded $200 million a year, was greatly reduced.
The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, still struggling following the cutoff of Iranian aid, was placed under even greater financial strain in 2013 when the administration of Egyptian Pres. Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown and replaced by a military-led interim government hostile to Hamas. The new administration heavily restricted crossings at the border between Gaza and Egypt and shut down most of the smuggling tunnels that had been a major source of tax revenue for Hamas as well as a primary means of supplying a wide variety of goods to the Gaza Strip. By late 2013 Hamas was struggling to pay the wages of public sector employees in the Gaza Strip.
In April 2014 Hamas effectively renounced its governing role in the Gaza Strip by agreeing with Fatah to the formation of a new PA cabinet composed entirely of nonpartisan ministers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the new agreement, accusing Fatah of seeking reconciliation with Hamas at the expense of a possible peace agreement with Israel. The new cabinet was sworn in on June 2 but was left unable to carry out the administration of the Gaza Strip. Hamas continued to administer the area, even forming an interim administrative committee in 2017. Later that year the PA began to take over, but, as it was unable to take full control, it began to cut its funding for the Gaza Strip in 2018. As disagreements with Hamas simmered, the PA withdrew its forces from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in January 2019, prompting Egypt to restrict movement through the Gaza Strip’s only operating border crossing.
Conflict with Israel
After Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel declared the Gaza Strip under Hamas a hostile entity and approved a series of sanctions that included power cuts, heavily restricted imports, and border closures. Hamas attacks on Israel continued, as did Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. After months of negotiations, in June 2008 Israel and Hamas agreed to implement a truce scheduled to last six months; however, the truce was threatened shortly thereafter as each accused the other of violations, which escalated in the last months of the agreement. On December 19 the truce officially expired amid accusations of violations on both sides. Broader hostilities erupted shortly thereafter as Israel, responding to sustained rocket fire, mounted a series of air strikes across the region—among the strongest in years—meant to target Hamas. After a week of air strikes, Israeli forces initiated a ground campaign into the Gaza Strip amid calls from the international community for a cease-fire. Following more than three weeks of hostilities—in which perhaps more than 1,000 were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless—Israel and Hamas each declared a unilateral cease-fire.
Beginning on November 14, 2012, Israel launched a series of air strikes in Gaza in response to an increase in the number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli territory over the previous nine months. The head of the ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Qassām Forces, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, was killed in the initial strike. Hamas retaliated with increasing rocket attacks on Israel, and hostilities continued until Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire agreement on November 21.
In 2014 tensions between Israel and Hamas rose following the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12. Netanyahu accused Hamas of having abducted the youths, and he vowed not to let the crime go unpunished. Israeli security forces launched a massive sweep in the West Bank to search for the missing boys and to crack down on members of Hamas and other militant groups; several hundred Palestinians suspected of having militant ties were arrested, including several leaders of Hamas in the West Bank. On June 30 the boys were found dead in the West Bank, outside of Hebron.
In the Gaza Strip the atmosphere of heightened tension led to an increase in rocket attacks on Israel by Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militants. Those had been relatively infrequent since the 2012 cease-fire, but by late June 2014 rocket launches and Israeli reprisals had become a daily occurrence. On June 30, in response to these reprisals, Hamas fired its first rockets into Israel since the cease-fire. On July 8 Israel commenced a large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip, using aerial bombing, missiles, and mortar fire to destroy a variety of targets that it claimed were associated with militant activity. After more than a week of bombardment failed to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched a ground assault to destroy tunnels and other elements of the militants’ infrastructure. In early August Israeli leaders declared that the ground operation had fulfilled its mission, and Israeli troops and tanks pulled back from the Gaza Strip. Israeli air strikes continued, as did rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
After agreeing to several short-term cease-fires over the course of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian leaders reached an open-ended cease-fire in late August. In exchange for the cessation of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel agreed to loosen restrictions on goods entering the Gaza Strip, expand the fishing zone off the coast, and reduce the size of the security buffer it enforced in areas adjacent to the Israeli border. Despite the high Palestinian death toll—estimated at more than 2,100—and widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders declared victory, trumpeting their ability to withstand Israeli attacks.
A series of border protests in Gaza in 2018, in which demonstrators attempted to cross the border into Israel and sent incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, was met with a violent response by Israel. The situation reached a peak on May 14, when about 40,000 people participated in the protests. Many of the protesters attempted to cross the border at once, and Israeli soldiers opened fire, killing about 60 people and wounding some 2,700 others. The violence continued to escalate, leading to Israeli air strikes and Hamas rocket fire into Israel and lasting several months.
HAMAS AND FATAH: HOW ARE THE TWO GROUPS DIFFERENT?
On Thursday, the two movements announced they had reached a deal to end a decade-long rift that brought them to an armed conflict in 2007. Al JazeeraZena Tahhan by Zena Tahhan 12 Oct 2017
HAMAS VS FATAH
Hamas - Islamist
Fatah - Secular
Strategy towards Israel:
Hamas - Armed resistance
Fatah - Negotiations
Hamas - Does not recognise Israel, but accepts a Palestinian state on 1967 borders
Fatah - Recognises Israel, wants to build a state on 1967 borders
Hamas then pushed Fatah out of Gaza when the latter refused to recognise the result of the vote.
Hamas and Fatah have ruled the occupied Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively ever since.
While the two groups work towards the same goal of building a Palestinian state on the territories that Israel occupied in 1967, consisting of East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, there are some stark differences.
WHAT ARE THEIR IDEOLOGIES?
Fatah is a reverse acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filistiniya or Palestinian National Liberation Movement in Arabic. The word Fatah means to conquer.
The secular movement was founded in Kuwait in the late 1950s by diaspora Palestinians after the 1948 Nakba - the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionist movement aiming to create a Jewish modern state in historic Palestine.
Fatah was founded by several people, most notably the late president of the Palestinian Authority - Yasser Arafat, aides Khalil al-Wazir and Salah Khalaf, and Mahmoud Abbas, who is the current president of the Palestinian Authority.
The movement was premised on the armed struggle against Israel to liberate historic Palestine.
WHY FATAH AND HAMAS WON'T RECONCILE
The main military wing of the group was al-Asifah, or the Storm. Al-Asifah fighters were based in several Arab countries as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.
The group's armed struggle against Israeli occupation began in 1965. Most of its armed operations were carried out from Jordan and Lebanon.
Under Yasser Arafat, and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Fatah became the dominant party in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which comprises numerous Palestinian political parties. The PLO was created in 1964 with the goal to liberate Palestine, and today acts as the representative of the Palestinian people at the United Nations.
After being pushed out of Jordan and Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, the movement underwent a fundamental change, choosing to negotiate with Israel.
"The Arabs basically helped in forcing Fatah to agree on taking a diplomatic route, after it was pushed out of Beirut," Nashat al-Aqtash, a ًWest Bank-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera.
In the 1990s, the Fatah-led PLO officially renounced armed resistance and backed United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for building a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders (West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza), alongside an Israeli state.
The PLO then signed the Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, or Palestinian Authority, an interim self-governing body meant to lead to an independent Palestinian State.
Hamas is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Resistance Movement. The word Hamas means zeal.
The Hamas movement was founded in Gaza in 1987 by imam Sheikh Ahmed Yasin and aide Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi shortly after the start of the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The movement started as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and created a military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to pursue an armed struggle against Israel with the aim of liberating historic Palestine. It also provided social welfare programmes to Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.
Hamas defines itself as a "Palestinian Islamic national liberation and resistance movement", using Islam as its frame of reference.
In 2017, Hamas issued a political document effectively claiming to break ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and said it would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with the return of Palestinian refugees.
A GUIDE TO THE GAZA STRIP
Though the move stirred fears among its loyalists that it was giving up on the Palestinian cause, Hamas added the following clause:
"Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea" but considers the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on 1967 borders "to be a formula of national consensus".
The movement believes that the "establishment of 'Israel' is entirely illegal". This sets it apart from the PLO, of which it is not a member.
Hamas entered Palestinian politics as a political party in 2005 when it engaged in local elections, and won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2006, beating Fatah.
Since 2007, Israel has launched three wars against Hamas and the Strip. After Hamas won elections in that year, Israel imposed an airtight blockade.
Civilians in Gaza have borne the brunt of the fighting. In the last Israeli assault on the Strip, more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 500 children, over a span of 50 days.
HOW DO THEIR OBJECTIVES DIFFER?
With the release of Hamas' political document in 2017, the objectives of the two parties are effectively the same - creating a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967.
"There is no value to the clause in which Hamas says it will not give up on historic Palestine," said al-Aqtash, the political analyst. "Hamas has accepted a political compromise and they cannot go back on this."
"All Palestinians dream of liberating historic Palestine, but today, they are working on a realistic solution," he added, explaining they are focusing on "what they can achieve as opposed to what they hope of achieving".
WHAT ARE THEIR STRATEGIES?
The biggest difference between the two movements today is their attitude towards Israel.
While Hamas has clung to using armed resistance, Fatah believes in negotiating with Israel and has completely ruled out using attacks.
The Oslo Accords gave Israel full control of the Palestinian economy as well as civil and security matters in more than 60 percent of the West Bank.
Under the agreements, the PA must coordinate with the Israeli occupation over security and any armed resistance attacks planned against Israelis. This is seen as highly controversial and seen by some as the PA collaborating with the Israeli occupation.
In March, protests erupted in the West Bank when prominent Palestinian political activist Basil al-Araj was killed by Israeli forces in Ramallah, after being arrested by PA security personnel on allegations of planning an attack.
Abbas, the PA president, regularly and publicly condemns any operations of armed resistance carried out by Palestinians against Israelis.
WILL HAMAS GIVE UP ARMS FOR PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION?
The issue of armed resistance has cast doubt over whether the unity agreement reached this week would succeed.
"The PA does not believe in the legitimacy of Hamas' arms. This means that the PA wants to end the resistance in Gaza and Hamas refuses that. And if Fatah accepts the resistance, Israel will take measures against the PA," Abdulsattar Qassem, a Nablus-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera.
"This will inevitably lead to the destruction of the potential new unity government."
HOW DO THEY RALLY SUPPORT?
Hamas' attraction lies in its ideology, compared with Fatah which has more international backing and is seen as more financially secure.
In terms of garnering support, the two employ very different tactics.
Hamas, like the Muslim Brotherhood, uses grassroots activism to inform people on its ideology, in places such as mosques and universities.
Fatah, on the other hand, no longer carries out such exercises, and relies more on providing financial support to gain followers, according to those on the ground.
Al-Aqtash says about half of Fatah loyalists "financially benefit from the PA and get rewards such as salaries and high positions - along with their families.
"Their livelihood is tied to the existence of the PA."
Many still view Fatah's Arafat as a Palestinian leader. In his time, before signing the Oslo Accords, the party supported armed resistance.
"Many of those on the street who support Fatah do so from an emotional perspective - for the slogans and the history of the movement - without really understanding what the movement's current views are," said al-Aqtash.
On the other hand, Hamas has a completely different loyalty base, says Ramallah-based activist Hazem Abu Helal.
"Hamas has a distinct ideology and they have people working to promote their ideas, as opposed to Fatah which uses money to secure its followers," Abu Helal told Al Jazeera.
"Today, if you ask university students, the majority of them do not know what Fatah's ideology is. The movement does not have clear principles."
LEBANESE ORGANIZATION Alternative Titles: Ḥizb Allāh, Hezbullah, Hizbullah
Hezbollah, Arabic Ḥizb Allāh (“Party of God”), also spelled Hezbullah or Hizbullah, political party and militant group that first emerged during Lebanon’s civil war as a militia after the Israeli invasion of that country in 1982. Formation, Political Orientation, And Conflict With Israel
FORMATION, POLITICAL ORIENTATION, AND CONFLICT WITH ISRAEL
Shiʿi Muslims, traditionally the weakest religious group in Lebanon, first found their voice in the moderate and largely secular Amal movement. Following the Islamic revolution in Shiʿi-majority Iran in 1979 and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a group of Lebanese Shiʿi clerics formed Hezbollah with the goal of driving Israel from Lebanon and establishing an Islamic republic there. Hezbollah was based in the predominately Shiʿi areas of the Biqāʿ Valley, southern Lebanon, and southern Beirut. It coordinated its efforts closely with Iran, from which it acquired substantial logistical support, and drew its manpower largely from disaffected younger, more radical members of Amal. Throughout the 1980s Hezbollah engaged in increasingly sophisticated attacks against Israel and fought in Lebanon’s civil war (1975–90), repeatedly coming to blows with Amal. During that time, Hezbollah allegedly engaged in terrorist attacks including kidnappings and car bombings, directed predominantly against Westerners, but also established a comprehensive social services network for its supporters.
The civil war ended in 1990 after the imposition of a consociational arrangement in which the country’s several religious sects shared power. The agreement was to be enforced by Syrian forces, which had been drawn into the country’s civil war in 1976. As the political environment changed, so did Hezbollah’s ideology and rhetoric. In 2009, while continuing to call for resistance to Israel as well as support for Iran, its updated manifesto dropped calls for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon and affirmed as its ideal government a democracy that represents national unity rather than sectarian interests.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah was one of the few militia groups not disarmed by the Syrians at the end of the civil war, and, as Lebanon divided into factions that either supported or opposed Syrian involvement in the country, Hezbollah firmly favoured Syria. In the fallout of the 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former prime minister who opposed Syrian involvement, a popular backlash against Syria led to its decision to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. On March 8, 2005, days after Syria announced its withdrawal, Hezbollah organized a massive rally in support of Syria; the date of this rally later served as the moniker for the pro-Syria bloc in Lebanese politics.
Hezbollah also continued to fight a sustained guerrilla campaign against Israel in southern Lebanon until Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. Years later, on July 12, 2006, Hezbollah, in an attempt to pressure Israel into releasing three Lebanese jailed in Israeli prisons, launched a military operation against Israel, killing a number of Israeli soldiers and abducting two as prisoners of war. This action led Israel to launch a major military offensive against Hezbollah. The 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Lebanese and the displacement of some 1,000,000. Fighting the Israel Defense Forces to a standstill—a feat no other Arab militia had accomplished—Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, emerged as heroes throughout much of the Arab world. Two years later, in July 2008, the bodies of the abducted soldiers were returned to Israel in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners and the bodies of about 200 others.
ASSERTING ITS PERMANENCE IN THE LEBANESE POLITY
In the months following the 2006 war, Hezbollah used its prestige to attempt to topple Lebanon’s government after its demands for more cabinet seats were not met: its members, along with those of the Amal militia, resigned from the cabinet. The opposition then declared that the remaining cabinet had lost its legitimacy and demanded the formation of a new government in which Hezbollah and its opposition allies would possess the power of veto.
Late the following year, efforts by the National Assembly to select a successor at the end of Lebanese Pres. Émile Lahoud’s nine-year term were stalemated by the continued power struggle between the Hezbollah-led opposition, the March 8 bloc, and the Western-backed March 14 bloc. A boycott by the opposition—which continued to seek the veto power it had been denied—prevented the assembly from reaching a two-thirds quorum. Lahoud’s term expired in November 2007, and the presidency remained unoccupied as the factions struggled to reach a consensus on a candidate and the makeup of the new government.
In May 2008, clashes between Hezbollah forces and government supporters in Beirut were sparked by government decisions that included plans to dismantle Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network. Nasrallah equated the government decisions with a declaration of war and mobilized Hezbollah forces, which quickly took control of parts of Beirut. In the following days the government reversed the decisions that had sparked the outbreak of violence, and a summit attended by both factions in Qatar led to an agreement granting the Hezbollah-led opposition the veto power it had long sought.
In November 2009, after months of negotiations following National Assembly elections, the March 8 bloc agreed to form a unity government with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s March 14 bloc. Tension arose in 2010, following reports that the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, investigating the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, had focused its investigation on senior Hezbollah officials and that it would soon issue indictments. Nasrallah condemned the tribunal as politically biased and compromised by forged evidence, and he called for the Lebanese government to stop cooperating with the investigation. The March 14 bloc continued to support the tribunal, resulting in a tense standoff. After attempts by Syria and Saudi Arabia to mediate between the two sides failed, Hezbollah forced the collapse of the unity government by withdrawing its two ministers and nine allied ministers from the cabinet. In January 2011 Najib Mikati, a Sunni billionaire, was nominated to be prime minister after receiving the backing of Hezbollah and its allies in parliament. Mikati’s appointment, a sign of Hezbollah’s increasing political strength, triggered protests by supporters of the March 14 bloc, who charged that the new government would be too closely aligned with Iran and Syria, Hezbollah’s principal supporters. In June 2011, after five months of deliberations, Mikati announced the formation of a new 30-member cabinet, with 18 of the posts filled by Hezbollah allies. No posts were assigned to members of the March 14 bloc.
In late June 2011 the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued arrest warrants for four suspects in the killing of Rafiq al-Hariri, who were identified by Lebanese officials as Hezbollah commanders and operatives. In response, Nasrallah denounced the tribunal and vowed never to turn over the suspects. A fifth suspect, also a member of Hezbollah, was identified in 2013. In January 2014 the trial of the suspects in absentia began.
A wave of popular uprisings in early 2011, known as the Arab Spring, left Hezbollah in a difficult position. After applauding revolutionary movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, the group found its interests threatened by a similar movement against a key ally, Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad. As protests spread throughout Syria and the civilian death toll mounted, Nasrallah spoke out in support of Assad, echoing Assad’s denunciations of the Syrian opposition as being agents of a foreign conspiracy. The conflict soon escalated into a full-blown civil war, and by late 2012 it was widely reported that Hezbollah fighters had been covertly sent to Syria to fight alongside the Syrian army. In May 2013 Nasrallah publicly confirmed Hezbollah’s involvement and vowed to fight until the rebels had been defeated. In 2016 one of Hezbollah’s most senior military commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, who was also one of the five suspects accused of planning the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, was killed in combat in Syria.
ROLE IN UNITY GOVERNMENT
In late 2016 a 29-month political stalemate was ended when Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun was elected president. As part of the deal bringing about his election, Saad al-Hariri was appointed prime minister. A year later Hariri unexpectedly resigned while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, citing foreign involvement in Lebanon’s affairs and insinuating that there was a plot against his life. Lebanon’s army and intelligence agency both denied that any such plots had been uncovered, however, and it was believed that Hariri had resigned under pressure from the Saudi government; many analysts believed Saudi Arabia was aiming to undermine Hezbollah’s power. After weeks of international pressure on the Saudi government, Hariri was allowed to return to Lebanon, where he rescinded his resignation and continued on as prime minister.
On May 6, 2018, Lebanon held its first legislative election since 2009. The March 8 bloc received a majority of seats, making Hezbollah politically dominant for the first time. After nine months of discussion, a unity government was announced that included most parties. Hezbollah did not receive direct control over any major cabinet posts, since its designation as a terrorist organization by some foreign governments would threaten international funding to Lebanon. But it did gain significant influence in the cabinet: the majority of the posts were filled by its March 8 allies, Hezbollah itself received two minor posts, and, perhaps most importantly, it was allowed to place a nonaffiliated ally to head one of the largest ministries in the country, the Ministry of Health.
The new cabinet struggled to address the crises facing Lebanon, however. Frustration brewed over corruption in the government and over the government’s inability to act effectively. In late 2019 massive demonstrations took place across the country, calling broadly for the country’s top officials to resign. Although Hezbollah attempted to discourage protests and opposed any resignation of the government, many of its own supporters participated in the protests, and Nasrallah said the government must work to regain the protesters’ confidence.