Adaptation To Survival: Strategic Evolution In Resistance Movements; Insights From Hamas – OpEd


In the realm of strategic studies, analyzing resistance movements exposes profound truths about asymmetric conflicts. Each of these movements has its own motivations, goals and strategies. The aim of this article is to analyze the strategic evolution of Hamas, one of the principal actors in the longstanding Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In geopolitical struggles resistance comes in many forms from mass-based nonviolent civil disobedience to armed insurgencies. In order to properly understand the different types of resistance and therefore the way that violent resistance movements have evolved over time, you need to be aware that such violence is a characteristic feature of many conflicts in the world. Backdrop Going Forward We’ll use the history of Hamas to examine the changes in its strategic direction as resistance techniques diversified.

Violent Resistance Movements:

One must explore the violence resistance landscape to understand how big a step forward it was for Hamas. The annals of most recent history are replete with blood-soaked examples of violent resistance movements that placed their own stamp on the world’s geopolitical map. Violent resistance movements have been studied under many perspectives. Every move reflects the unique social and political soil in which it grows, making asymmetric conflicts that much more complex. From this analysis we arrive at an account of Hamas which is nuanced and gray, but it also falls in with larger historical trends. These set the stage for its emergence within a new geopolitical landscape populated by resistance movements all over the world.

Traditional Modus Operandi: 

To decipher their strategic transformation one needs to go through the traditional method of violent resistance movements. Resistance movements always have weak position relative to their opponent. 

Resistance Movements modus operandi is clandestine operations and insurgency”. Along with terror attacks, another typical feature of violent resistance movements is the use of propaganda and information warfare. Thus controlling the narrative and building public opinion are two important aspects of asymmetric warfare. With this larger context, we evaluate the strategic evolution of Hamas.

History of Hamas:

Founded in 1987, against the backdrop of the First Intifada, Hamas is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya (Islamic Resistance Movement), which had its origins as a social and political entity. Over years of war with Israel it has become a real military powerhouse. Its origin was also linked to the strategy for coping with the Israeli occupation and what it perceived as deficiencies in existing Palestinian political organizations. Hamas’s charter, crafted in 1988, outlines its dual objectives: with a commitment to political self-determination for Palestinians, and an armed struggle against Israeli occupation.

Passing through the turbulent century of Israel-Palestine conflict, HAMAS experienced many turning points that influenced its strategic development like the mid-1990s Oslo Accords. HAMAS came to violently oppose the accords, because it perceived them as damaging to Palestinian aspirations and an abdication of their resistance narrative.

Another watershed moment in HAMAS history was its victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. HAMAS’s success at the ballot box presented a dual challenge: how to reconcile this new-found political legitimacy with the latter’s traditional military orientation. With this dilemma, HAMAS faced a delicate change in strategy. It veered toward a mediated approach to governing while at the same time trying to maintain the resistance credentials it had built up over the years. 

A distinctive feature of Hamas has been the intertwining of the political and militant aspects. It stands out among resistance movements for this reason. 

Its operational history can be illustrated in a series of engagements that reflect the development of Hamas as a resistance force. One example is the suicide bombings of the 1990s, a method which placed the group in a peculiar position. A tactic that was widely publicized. The organization’s arsenal was now rocket attacks, kidnappings, and other asymmetric weapons intended to thwart the superiority of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

A key element of Hamas’s military strategy has always been the use of guerrilla warfare, using strategy of hit and run. Asymmetrical strategies, including the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambush tactics have become a defining part of Hamas’s military manual.

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood (October 2023):

A watershed event in the recent history of Hamas is the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, launched on October 7th, 2023, on the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot and on the anniversary of Yom Kippur. The attack was a coordinated effort with other rival factions such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The attack was coordinated, multi-dimensional and multi-axis, with 3000 Mujahedeen’s infiltrating through the 29 breaching points in the Barrier surrounding Gaza.

“Following are some of the strategies and tactics that are to be studied and taken away from the October 7th attack as key evolving factors in the landscape of resistance movements”

  • Deception and Coordinated Multifaceted Attacks:

In the Operation ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’, Hamas strategically utilized deception to capture Israeli forces at surprise. The element of surprise was critical to the operation’s success, evoking ancient military philosophies in which surprise proved to be an amplifier of force. The collaborated and multidimensional character of the operation involved an amalgamation of ground intrusions, rocket attacks, gliders’ infiltration, and the drones obliterating the communication and surveillance apparatuses on the border, as well as efforts to launch an attack through the sea using speedboats, demonstrating the organization’s ability to orchestrate a synchronized assault. 

  • Blinding Israeli Communication and Surveillance Systems: 

Hamas’ deliberate moves to obstruct the Israeli communication & surveillance networks were one significant part of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. This included targeted strikes on communication infrastructure, surveillance technology, and automated defence systems along the Gaza-Occupied Palestinian border, restricting Israel’s capacity to obtain intelligence and retaliate quickly.

  • Understanding the Enemy:

Hamas’ strategic strategy was most likely informed by a thorough awareness of Israel’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This expertise would include information regarding Israeli arsenals, military might, and possible flaws in defence systems.

  • Drone Warfare and Usage of Gliders for Infiltration:

Recent confrontations involving extremist organisations have seen a growing focus on drone warfare, with Op Al-Aqsa Flood also demonstrating a substantial use of low-cost, smaller drones. Drones were used for a variety of objectives, including reconnaissance and delivering improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

  • Urban and Tunnel Warfare: 

A vital element of asymmetrical and guerrilla warfare is urban warfare. The use of densely populated metropolitan areas and a vast system of underground tunnels for movement and unexpected assaults is consistent with the methods used by many resistance forces throughout history. 

  • Psychological Warfare and Effective Media Utilization: 

Hamas has a long history of using psychological warfare, using media, particularly social media, to build narratives and affect public opinion. Throughout Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, photos, films, and narratives were strategically used to represent Hamas as a robust and resolute force, impacting both internal and global opinions of war. 

  • Taking Hostages for Deterrence and Leverage: 

Another significant approach used by Hamas was to take hostages as a form of deterrence and leverage. This functioned as a deterrent as well as leverage in talks. Individual capture, whether either civilian or military, has historically been used strategically to put pressure.

  • Political and Diplomatic Engagement: 

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood included not only military efforts, but also a political and diplomatic battle. HAMAS’s military and political wings have been equally proactive during the continuing battle. 


The group’s capacity to switch from classic techniques, like suicide attacks in the 1990s, to more modern plans, as demonstrated by Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, demonstrates its adaptability in the context evolving geopolitical conditions. Hamas evolved from an Islamic Resistance amid the First Intifada into a multidimensional entity with social, political, and militant components. 

The examination of Hamas’ strategic growth reveals a tapestry of tactics, flexibility, and diversified approaches. The use of conventional asymmetric tactics by Hamas, for example guerrilla warfare and insurgency, is supplemented by a proactive adoption of modern techniques such as urban warfare, the use of ATGMs and Man-pads, and, in particular, drone warfare. 

Lessons taken from Hamas’ strategic growth extend beyond the confines of the Palestinian-Israeli issue. They add to the larger conversation about resistance groups in asymmetric battles by emphasizing the significance of ability to adapt, integrating technology, and an integrated strategy that includes the military, politics, and diplomacy components. As geopolitical environments change, the situation of Hamas provides an insightful example for policymakers and academics interested in the nuanced characteristics of resistance groups. Understanding the complexities of Hamas’ strategic growth not only improves academic discourse, but also informs conflict resolution and efforts to promote peace in complicated and protracted conflicts around the world.

  • The views expressed are the author’s own

Sheryar Khan

Sheryar Khan is an undergraduate student of International Relations at National Defence University, Islamabad.

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