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Gazans carry on despite years of war
02:01 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: This is a companion piece to What is Israel’s endgame in Gaza?

Story highlights

Hamas has a number of stated goals

Some, like the destruction of Israel, are repudiated globally

Hamas also wants an end to Israeli control in Gaza

CNN  — 

For three weeks now, Hamas and Israel have been locked in a deadly battle. Each side points to the other for provoking the conflict, which has left scores – mainly civilians – dead.

And yet, a cease-fire seems unlikely, in part because the sides don’t feel they have accomplished their goals.

What are the goals for Hamas, the organization that governs Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by many Western powers? And what is it willing to settle for to end the bloodshed?

What Hamas wants:

1. The destruction of Israel.

This mission is written into the preamble of Hamas’ founding document: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.”

It’s a demand that is globally repudiated as outrageous. It is unrealistic for Hamas to think that it can somehow destroy Israel. As long as Hamas leaders latch on to that as an endgame, the result will be continued flare-ups for years to come.

Some Hamas leaders have stated a willingness to accept peace with Israel under certain conditions, the Council on Foreign Relations notes in a report. For instance, they want Palestinian refugees to be able to return. But such voices are not being heard in the current conflict.

If Hamas is incapable of destroying Israel, it might still be dedicated to scaring Israelis off the contested land, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic posits.

“The goal of Hamas—the actual, overarching goal—is to terrorize the Jews of Israel, through mass murder, into abandoning their country,” Goldberg wrote. “If generations of Palestinians have to be sacrificed to that goal, well, Hamas believes such sacrifices are theologically justified.”

CNN Middle East analyst Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, suggests a different type of war – a media campaign by Hamas.

“Hamas knows it can’t destroy Israel with its rockets or tunnels, but it can create a legal and international situation where Israel can no longer legitimately defend itself,” he said.

Reports of civilian casualties in Gaza – without the context of rockets being fired at Israel – play into Hamas’ media strategy, he said.

Map of the Middle East

2. An end to the Israeli blockade.

Although Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 and dismantled Israeli settlements, Palestinians say they continue to live under occupation to this day.

Palestinians argue that Israel still maintains effective control of Gaza, making it an occupied territory. Israel controls Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace – and oversees what goods make it into the territory.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman recently spoke with Ismail Haniyeh, who is essentially the prime minister of Gaza. The Hamas member gave his demands – namely, an immediate end to what he called the Israeli aggression. He wants border crossings to Israel and Egypt opened.

In a 2012 interview with CNN, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had a similar message.

“The resistance is a means to an end,” Meshaal told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The endgame is to end occupation but the international community is not enabling us to do this. They are biased towards Israel.”

Hamas wants a cease-fire, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdam said of the current conflict, but it wants assurances that the Palestinians will be able to live peacefully.