- HAMAS, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, or the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” founded in 1987, is an offshoot of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. The group aims to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. HAMAS receives support from Iran and sympathizers worldwide.
- The US State Department designated HAMAS as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 after its armed element, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, began conducting attacks against Israeli civilians in pursuit of its goal to establish a Palestinian state.
- Since 2007, HAMAS has served as the governing authority of the Gaza Strip, a small self-governing territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea bordering Israel. HAMAS continues to target Israel through terrorist and rocket attacks, largely emanating from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Threat to New Jersey: Low
The threat from HAMAS to New Jersey remains low because the group continues to focus its military actions regionally to further its goal of creating a Palestinian state. Nonetheless, the group has supporters and sympathizers in New Jersey who focus on fundraising.
- In December, Ismail Haniya—the vice president of HAMAS’s political bureau and leader of the movement in Gaza—stated that the US decision to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is an aggression, a declaration of war on us, on the best Muslims and Christian Shrines in the Heart of Palestine.” HAMAS further instructed followers to attack “Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers everywhere.” Notwithstanding, there have been no official statements by HAMAS directing violence against the United States as a result of the policy shift.
- In November 2008, a federal court in Texas convicted representatives of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) charity for funneling $12.4 million to HAMAS, including a New Jersey representative responsible for the Paterson (Passaic County) office. In 2009, the founders of HLF received prison sentences of 15 to 65 years
US Outreach and Aspirations
Over the next year, NJOHSP assesses HAMAS will likely focus on strengthening its ties with Iran, collaborating with like-minded regional terrorist organizations, and continuing its arrests of ISIS supporters.
- On December 11, the head of HAMAS’s political bureau contacted the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran to discuss America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Iran renounced the American policy decision and “stressed that Iran will support Palestine with all capabilities at hand and stand with the Palestinian people till they liberate their country with Jerusalem as its capital,” according to the HAMAS official political website.
- In response to the US policy shift, HAMAS, Hizballah, and five armed groups active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip formed a “coordination room” to “confront Israel” and the US decision, according to a Lebanese media outlet.
- Since 2015, HAMAS carried out large-scale arrests of ISIS supporters in Gaza. In January, the official ISIS affiliate in the Sinai released a video calling on its followers to attack HAMAS and featured the execution of an alleged HAMAS sympathizer. ISIS accused HAMAS of failing to prevent the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and criticized it for cracking down on local Islamist groups in Gaza.