Israel's Barak quits politics in surprise move

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a leading strategist in confronting Iran over its nuclear program, said in a surprise announcement yesterday he would quit political life after the January 22 national election.

Israel and Hamas begin Gaza talks

Representatives of Israel and Hamas have begun indirect talks about the implementation of the ceasefire deal that ended the recent violence in Gaza. The negotiations are being led by Egyptian intermediaries in Cairo.

  • Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes continue

    Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes continue
  • Yemeni protesters rally against Israeli airstrikes

    Yemeni protesters rally against Israeli airstrikes
  • Gaza conflict escalates

    Gaza conflict escalates

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Backgrounder: Hamas http://english.sina.com/world/2012/1119/528207.html

Hamas is a militant fundamentalist Islamic organization operating in the West Bank and Gaza. The name Hamas is an acronym for "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia," or Islamic Resistance Movement in English. The word "hamas" means zeal in Arabic.

Hamas has sections dedicated to religious, military, political and security activities. It runs a social welfare program, and operates a number of schools, hospitals and religious institutions. It also has about 12,500 security personnel.

What are its aims?

Hamas's goal is an Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian state. Its original manifesto advocated the destruction of the state of Israel, and called for the raising of "the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."

Current Hamas president Khaled Meshaal has previously said the group would support a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders (prior to the Six-Day War, during which Israeli troops occupied Gaza) , with East Jerusalem as its capital.