Hamas and ISIS: background and current perspective

(In collaboration with Termometro Politico)

Someone has opened the Middle East Pandora’s box and the far-reaching implications do not seem at an end. Even after the four-years-conflict in Syria, where more than 220.000 people have died, the peace-talks held in Moscow this April ended in a failure. Though both Government envoys and rebels agreed on a commitment to fight terrorism and end foreign meddling, a political agreement is far from being reached and military clashes continue in several fronts where we could see a more powerful insurgent faction, the Islamic State, modifying the previous war’s binomial.

It all falls upon the shoulder of the exhausted civilians, the sole victims of this escalation. UNHCR esteems approximately 7 million people between refugees and IDPs in Syria, and the continuing worsening of the border in the Iraq neighbouring-countries can only make this number grow in this endless battlefield, where the scarcity of safe-infrastructures have restricted the possibility of humanitarian aid’s access.

Although this situation seems to be tragic in itself, this “iceberg” has a deep political hidden mass. I am referring to the recent situation that occurred in Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp seized by the ISIS forces. Currently, the Islamic State of Iran and Syria, and the troops of rebels and Palestinians are struggling, thus preventing the free access of humanitarian aid within the camp. According to UNRWA, the United Nations Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east, there are 560.000 refugees in 112 camps in Syria and almost 95 percent need humanitarian assistance.

This settlement, eight kilometres far from Damascus, is historically one of the most important in the region. Established in 1957, it is considered the capital of the Palestinian diaspora since the recognition of Israel in 1948. The diplomatic relations between Palestine and Syria brought to the recognition by the Syrian government of the equal rights for both Palestine refugees and Syrian citizens. After more than a few vicissitudes, among which the banned of PLO and his leader Yasser Arafat from Syria, the Hamas group tried to reinforce its role within the camp until 2012, when Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal ran away to Qatar since he joined the coalition of rebels against the President Bashar al-Assad. With the Syrian war, the camp was targeted by the national air force as a rendezvous point of presidential opponents. Many civilians left the camp towards Lebanon and Jordan, and consequently dropped its size to 18.000 people.

When ISIL declared the establishment of the Caliphate in 2014 and started seizing the Yarmouk Area, strategically vital for its closeness to the presidential palace, the situation turned upside down and the critical situation towards Hamas collapsed definitely. Since 2009 the situation between these groups has been difficult. That year the new front of Jund Ansar Allah (literally “soldiers of the followers of God”) and his leader declared the creation of the first Amir of the Islamic Emirate. Tension erupted because of their different strategic priorities. Starting from IS, they believe it is essential to “purify” the Ummah, the community of the Islamic people worldwide who have different views and goes beyond Islam. On the other hand Hamas, the leading organisation in Gaza, has a very wide target connected with its position against Israel in order to have Palestine recognised as an independent country without foreign imposition. This point has to be stressed especially now that Palestine has officially joined the International Criminal Court, a big glimmer towards a diplomatic recognition.

In conclusion, a final solution in the Middle East needs to bring stability and the various counter parties cannot bring peace without considering a common political agreement. In Yarmouk, the global community must push harder for a durable solution. A good starting point is already present since in 2014 when an agreement was signed to avoid humanitarian access and create a neutral zone around the refugee camp. Humanitarian desolation can perpetuate other aggressions with a tremendous cost in terms of human lives: a catastrophic perspective towards an escalation of violence.


Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)

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