Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) will run in the Jan. 25 legislative elections for the first time with a campaign message for reform.
Despite Israeli objection to its participation before being disarmed, Hamas is expected to gain at least 30 percent of the 132 seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), next only to the rulilng Fatah movement, according to the latest opinion poll.
Hamas was set up six days after the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) broke out in Dec. 9, 1987, under a background of growing Islamic trend known as a conservative society which existed in the Gaza Strip long before Israel occupied the strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, late Hamas spiritual leader founded the Islamic society in the Gaza Strip in late 1979 shortly after Camp David agreement signed between Israel and Egypt and the outbreak of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
The Islamic society started with social, cultural, religious, educational and sports activities, which were ignored by Israel considering the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as an enemy.
However, Yassin formed the first armed group, the Mujadidin Court, and huge amounts of weapons were discover at Yasin's home in Gaza City by Israel.
Yassin was detained in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison. He was released in 1985 under a prisoners exchange deal between Israel and the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) headed by Ahmed Jibril in Lebanon.
Following the Islamic trend, the Hamas movement was set up late 1987 after the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising).
Afterwards, Hamas gained momentum in violent clashes, becoming the dominant Islamic fundamentalist organization in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The radical movement, which was committed to the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River", boosted its appeal in the Palestinians by leading street violence.
As a result of its subversive and terrorist activities, Hamas was outlawed in September 1989 by Israel.
Today Hamas is the second most powerful group after the ruling Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fatah) due to its influence in the Gaza Strip, especially among the refugees.
Hamas' prestige is based on both its ideological and practical capabilities. As a resistance movement, its contribution to the daily life of the Palestinians is not less than its contribution to the struggle against Israeli occupation.
Hamas professed to be not just a parallel force but an alternative to the almost absolute control of the PLO and its factions over the Palestinians in the territories.
Yassin was detained again by Israel in 1988 for ordering kidnaping and killing of two Israeli soldiers. He was released in 1997, after he was exchanged with two Mosad agents arrested by Jordan for trying to assassinate head of Hamas political bureau Khaled Meshal.
Hamas was opposed to the 1993 Oslo peace accord signed between Israel and the PLO and boycotted the first and only Palestinian legislative election in 1996.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated in an Israeli targeted killing in March 2004 and a month later, his successor Abdel Aziz Rantesi was similarly killed, as part of Israeli move to quell terrorist groups active in the second Intifada starting in September 2000.
After Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004, his successor Mahmoud Abbas persuaded Hamas and other militant factions to observe a ceasefire with Israel until the end of 2005.