(Islamic Resistance Movement) Islamic fundamentalist organization; its militant wing, Al Qassam, played a major role in the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories from 1987. Responsible for attacks on Israeli soliders and civilians, the group gained a reputation for ruthlessness and unpredictability. It opposed the Sept 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and maintained a campaign of violence within Israel aimed at disrupting the Middle East peace process.
Impatient with the PLO's prolonged efforts to free the occupied territories by diplomatic means, in Nov 1992 Hamas formed an alliance with Iran for support in the continuation of the Intifada. In Dec 1992, 415 Palestinians suspected of having links with Hamas were expelled from Israel into Lebanon. Refused refugee status by Lebanon and neighboring Arab states, they remained for six months in a desert camp until international condemnation of the deportations forced Israel to agree to their return.
Its militant wing, Al Qassam, claimed responsibility for two bomb attacks within Israel April 1994, in which 12 civilians died, and for a further bus bombing in Tel Aviv Oct 1994, in which at lease 20 civilians died. All were carried out by suicide bombers. In Nov 1994 there were violent clashes between supporters of Hamas and Palestinian police in newly liberated Gaza.
In 1989 Hamas' leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was arrested by the Israelis and sentenced to life imprisonment for ordering the killing of Palestinians who had allegedly collaborated with the Israeli army.