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Cutting Edge -

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(generated from captions) Hamas militants keep watch, is not detected. making sure this brief meeting It's taken months to gain access and controversial groups. to one of the world's most secretive more than 20 of their top leaders During the past year, by the Israelis. have been assassinated They are targeted and attacked, just keeps growing yet their movement as a major political force. and now looms Hamas won the municipal elections A few days earlier in Gaza and the West Bank, are still in hiding. even though their surviving leaders at a transformative time - This is a journey inside Hamas to becoming a political power on its way than the gun. with much more influence the West Bank, A rally in Hebron, second intifada in September 2000. marks the beginning of the the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, will become its defining voice. With relentless determination struggle for Palestine Hamas has turned the territorial into a struggle for God. with this covenant... It was founded in 1987,

through jihad, to destroy the State of Israel

over every inch of Palestine. to raise the banner of Islam EXPLOSION MOURNFUL MUSIC Hamas has claimed responsibility Since it was founded,

of more than 400 Israelis. for the death as a terror organisation Hamas, we see it they are killing us in our streets. and we have the right to see it,

Because they want to take revenge. You know why they are doing it? To take revenge. This is the real reason.

they do terrorist acts, I don't agree with what they do, terrorist methods, they are a terrorist organisation. but I don't say where you stand. It depends you think Hamas is terrorist, If you stand on the Israeli side, you think Sharon is a terrorist. and on the Palestinian side, MACHINE-GUN FIRE in its fourth year of the uprising, This is Gaza Strip

of brutal violence. and an almost daily dose populated lands in the world In one of the most densely with the support of the people. Hamas can only operate is only 350 square kilometres. The whole of the Gaza Strip provides temporary cover. One of the few surviving orchards This is a search for answers. and where do they come from? Who are the people behind the mask their movement mean for the future? What does the phenomenal growth of It won't be easy. Years of imprisonment and the Palestinian Authority both by the Israelis the ultimate secret society, have taught them to become based on three-member cells. If you want to understand Hamas, AYALON: it is a movement, a way of life, you have to understand a fundamental way of life. It is the jihad as well. And since I saw both ends, a very dangerous phenomenon. I think it is and the West Bank, Hamas operates in Gaza but Gaza is its real home. of Israeli occupation, After nearly four decades a corrupt Palestinian leadership, and ravaged by of despair and recruits. it's a breeding ground Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. This is the house of Hamas founder He was a handicapped schoolteacher could not restore their homeland who believed Palestinians until they restored their faith. movement, did not come from a void. Hamas, the Islamic resistance of a tradition Hamas is a continuation been with the Palestinians that had, for many years, called the Muslim Brotherhood. and with the Muslims, combined a charity for the poor The Muslim Brotherhood with religious education. It taught the meaning of jihad, an inner struggle for God became an external one. that when necessary Yasser Arafat and his secular PLO, Israel, preoccupied with fighting Sheikh Yassin's charities. legitimised the sort of activities TAMIMI: The Israelis did not see as a threat. carried out by Sheikh Yassin to the Israelis, Because religious institutions were considered to be not dangerous. until the late 70s, Their schools and orphanages with pupils and students. and kindergartens were flooded created Gaza's Islamic University, The Muslim Brotherhood part of a vast social network among the people. that has become entrenched were boss in Hamas movement. The founders of this university in Islamic University mean Hamas. Not all people No, Hamas in all the streets. popular reputation Hamas has a very big, inside the Palestinian street. with Hamas and its doings. And most of us agree Every student from all what you see to liberate this country is wishing to die or do anything and our houses destroyed. because we see our children die (Asks question in Arabic) about the resistance. All of them agree We are not animals here. Die under shells, die under houses. Psychological depression. This is depression. from this psychological depression. We are suffering think to go and bomb myself! If I lived a free life, I wouldn't a girl two years old. Yesterday, they killed We don't want this peace. This is the peace they want? and fight till die. It's better for us to live September 2004. of the intifada On the fourth anniversary Israel begins Operation Penitence. It's an effort to punish Hamas, two Israeli children. whose rockets have killed MACHINE-GUN FIRE (Wails loudly) more than 120 people will die. Over the next 10 days do not target civilians. Unlike Hamas, Israeli operations see the distinction. But few Palestinians grows when there is despair, AL-SARRAJ: The popularity of Hamas when there is poverty, when there is lack of hope, when there is violence. has deep psychological roots. Hamas's religious image on 3000 children in Gaza, We did a study

that nearly 45% of them and we found out and the humiliation of their fathers witnessed the beating in front of their eyes. by the Israeli soldiers unable to protect himself. The father became helpless, And what has this done to the children is serious. Comes the time when they are teenagers and the father-figure replacement comes in the group - Hamas - which takes the role of the father and accommodates the children, takes them in, and together we identify with the ultimate father... God. And why God? Because contrast to your original father, God cannot be humiliated. It can only be dignity. God cannot be defeated as your father was, because God is only victorious. And even if you die for God you don't die. Hamas leaders expect to be killed, and they've been continually targeted during the making of this film. Meetings have been arranged and cancelled many times. Finally, there is contact. (Prays)

These are the last three Hamas leaders still alive in Gaza. They've been moving from house to house for the past year. Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar, a physician, is now head of the Gaza operation. This is his first interview since he's gone underground. I was already assassinated by the Israelis. They attacked my house and injured my wife deeply.

Deep injuries. EXPLOSION This is footage of the bombing of Dr Zahar's home. I was injured in the back and face and ribs. It is the beginning of a stepped-up campaign that Israel calls 'targeted killing'. The Israeli also killed my son. And deeply injured my daughter. Aside from his family, 20 civilians are injured. SIRENS, SHOUTING I was transmitted from one area to another, from house to another, according to the will of the people. Everybody was looking to help me personally, to express his sympathy and to support me by all means, and up to this moment we are living the same condition. It's difficult but our goal is noble goal and we are ready to sacrifice. People are sacrificing their life to liberate their land. I would like to address for everybody that we are believer. We are deeply committed to Islam. We practise how Islam is the medicine for everything, including all the difficult conditions you described. As a person, as family, as an organisation and as a national issue.

Believe me, I am not afraid. I'm taking too much precautions but we are not afraid. If we are afraid we will do nothing. While Zahar runs the Gaza operation from hiding, by computer and cell phone, the al-Qassam military wing has its own directives. The Jabaliya refugee camp is one of their strongholds. Militants gather homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades to use against the Israeli tanks that have been besieging the camp. In the last four years Hamas has become the undoubted leader of all Palestinian militant factions, responsible for the highest number of Israeli casualties. In the night-time attack, an Israeli shell kills the Hamas commander. It's shadow warfare. His men slip back into the night. The urban guerillas will take off their masks and simply disappear. The Palestinian saga is the story of uprooting and the confiscation of their land. It's left a legacy of bitterness and betrayal. 1948. The Palestinians call this Nakba - the disaster. After the United Nations declared the partitioning of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state, the ensuring war left 750,000 Palestinians exiled from their homes.

It is here in the refugee camps that Hamas has its most dedicated constituency... those who still hold the key to their old homes and still wait to return. The political wing of Hamas is the nerve centre of the organisation.

Its members move among different Arab capitals. Director Khalid Meshaal has agreed to meet us at an undisclosed location somewhere in Lebanon.

They have taken the camera - this is a re-creation. Another Hamas leader was killed in Damascus just two months before. Now Meshaal, a physicist, is the driving force of the movement, strategising on the international front. Meshaal almost died in 1997 when Mossad agents posing as Canadians injected him with poison. Khalid Meshaal studied physics but was consumed with politics. He formed a group of student revolutionaries to help Yassin's movement from Kuwait.

In December 1987, spontaneous riots led to a popular uprising that would become known as the first intifada. Yassin and his followers chose this moment to declare the birth of Hamas. By 2004 Hamas had a huge public following. They had vowed never to fight other Palestinian factions. Their combination of armed resistance and charity work - like this day care for needy children - was winning the public. CHILDREN: Mummy, Mummy, I am sick. Go tell the doctor, come here quick!

But moderate Palestinians, especially women, fear the rise of an Islamic state. Our history shows we were never fanatic people in religion. We were never fundamentalists.

But mainly during the last 10, 15 years, is pushing us to the wall where we can find no other option except to go for the Hamas. It's influencing young minds but we are fighting them. This is the issue we are trying to fight. It's not only the woman that will be affected when Hamas is... The worst will be for the women, but the whole society will be undemocratic society. AL-SARRAJ: Hamas represented in the minds of people here a resistance,

a group of faithful Muslims, incorruptible. People compare between the Palestinian Authority and its corruption and mismanagement and so on, and Hamas who looks so clean, and they think "Well, this is the good group." CALL TO PRAYER It's a very secretive organisation because of the circumstances of occupation,

because of the security concerns. People join a study circle which begins as an open study circle, they receive basic teachings of Islam and then as they progress they move into a more closed circle. They are also taught things about politics, about the movement, and level after level until they become fully active. Hamas is proud of the Farahat family. Wusam was injured firing a rocket, then spent years in an Israeli jail. His older brother Nidal was the architect of the Qassam rockets. He was assassinated by the Israelis, but not before recruiting his youngest brother, Mohammad. Mariam Farahat got her wish. Mohammad was 17 years old when he was chosen for the suicide operation. This is the family's home video of their final goodbye. Though suicide is not permitted in Islam, Hamas deems the missions 'sacrifice' and has become expert at promoting the message of martyrdom. Mohammad infiltrated a Jewish settlement and killed five students before he was fatally shot. It was the use of suicide operations

that made the name Hamas synonymous with terror. And it was a weapon that changed the face of the war. The first week in my position as the director of the Israeli Security Agency, we Israelis, we paid a very, very expensive price. A very painful price. We lost 55 people...

all of them civilians, in buses in our streets, and more than 200 wounded, in less than two weeks. INTERVIEWER: How can you, a man of religion, defend the morality of suicide bombings? No matter how just the Palestinian cause, it's appalling to see young people going and blowing themselves up and killing innocent women and children on the Israeli side. If you going to see it by one eye, I am accept your argument. But if you are going to use your two eyes, you have to look for our miserable condition. How many children killed in the last intifada? One third of the Palestinian people killed are children. And we said for the Israeli many times, stop targeting the civilians, we are going to stop targeting your civilians. I think it's our right to defend ourselves, our people and our national goal against a foreign occupation

who have all the destructive weapons to kill. We have not the same instruments as our enemy. People can't believe that Hamas can give any security when they are standing against the Israeli helicopters, the Israeli aeroplanes, the Israeli tanks. You know why they are doing it? Because they want to take revenge. This is the real reason. We asked Khalid Meshaal what he believed the suicide missions accomplish.

This tunnel leads to Israel, and the only way for Palestinians in Gaza to cross into the West Bank to see their families. A Hamas suicide bomber blew herself up here months ago. It's the endless cycle of the occupation - fear leads to brutal lockdowns, which inevitably lead to rage. This is Sderot, a sleepy Israeli town next to the Gaza border. Sderot seemed a world away from Gaza until Hamas developed rockets with the range to reach here. Ela Abucasis died three weeks before this interview. She was 17 years old. Here, death is no respecter of borders. Grief, like a dark river, flows from one side to the other. Soon after Ela died, an Israeli tank fired on a group of children they believed were Hamas militants. Maryam Jaben lost five of her children. In all, seven children were killed that day as shrapnel tore them apart in the strawberry fields. One boy died later in an Israeli hospital. This checkpoint guarded one of the main Jewish settlements that dissected the Gaza Strip. For Israel, the cost of protecting them was enormous - in money and lives. For the Palestinians, it's meant life in a virtual prison. 1600 homes have been destroyed here in the ongoing Israeli campaign against Palestinian insurgents. People call this street 'the street of death' because many people, more than 62 people, were killed on this street. Because of the random shooting from these military points. I am a Palestinian refugee. My parents were born in a village called Ibna. It is part of Tel Aviv now. My father was killed by the Israelis in 1971, so I became orphaned. I was seven years old.

We have to be careful because they are shooting now. MACHINE-GUN FIRE This is the Israeli checkpoints. Day and night they are shooting. All the buildings in Rafah are penetrated by bullets. Many of the children were killed in these schools. In 1987, Hamas started now to incite people to move and to act against the occupation,

so I participated in these activities. I worked in this intifada for one and a half years, but after that I was arrested by the Israeli forces and sentenced for five years. But inside the prison I think we created a new network. We turned the prison to be a university. Many people learned about the conflict, the Zionist movement. I think we tried to adapt ourselves for everything not to stop, and not to let Israel feel that we became weak. Maybe the Palestinians have something exceptional. When Israel put up fences to stop smuggling of our weapons, people are digging under the ground. Hamas is digging tunnels here under the border with Egypt. They've dug a vast network of tunnels that have Israeli experts fearing a new kind of conflict. Israel fears that large-calibre weapons will reach Gaza this way. They've destroyed more than 100 tunnels this year, bulldozing through swathes of houses that might conceal them. Israel said "We will destroy all these homes. "We don't want it used for the tunnels", but they did not succeed to stop it. Even they go inside the Palestinian villages, inside Palestinian populations and destroy more and more, yeah, from time to time they discover a tunnel, but the next day they find another. Hamas videotapes these operations as another form of psychological warfare. December 2004. Two militants prepare for a new kind of suicide mission. Positioned under an Israeli army outpost, they prepare to detonate one and a half tonnes of explosives. EXPLOSION It's the third tunnel attack in six months, taking more than 15 Israeli lives. It presents Israel with the question... what price will they pay for their security? In February 2004, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon announced a plan to disengage from Gaza. Three weeks later, he sent a message to Hamas. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile as he left his mosque after morning prayers. With his assassination, Israel provoked international condemnation and risked further enraging the Palestinian street. But they didn't want Hamas to claim victory when they pulled out of Gaza. So they made a calculated decision with the advice of counter-terrorism experts like Dr Yohanan Tzoref. I think that the best way to stop terror is to kill the man who has the responsibility for it. Only the man. Only the terrorist himself. This is the best way to stop it. When Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated by the Israelis, the Israelis thought they'd managed to get rid of an archenemy. They removed him from the way. Actually, his removal brought so much blessing for Hamas itself. An overflow of recruits and an overflow of funding. FERVENT MESSAGE IN ARABIC OVER SPEAKER Palestinian rage and support for Hamas would continue to grow as, three weeks later, Israel struck again, killing Yassin's successor Dr Abdul Rantisi. INTERVIEWER: Do you think the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi and many others has been a strategic success? Look! I think it did the biggest success for Israel. Why? Because the support that Hamas got increased so much that the Hamas feel part of the Arab politics. The most important issue for Israel

is that the Hamas will become a political movement and not a resistance movement. Hamas will ride this wave of support and enter the political arena. With Arafat's death, eight months later, they are poised for power. But they make no promise to leave armed resistance. And many Israelis believe that violence is no longer the best way to fight them. Hamas is the answer for the Palestinian street only if the peace process collapse. Only if the Palestinian street feel betrayed by us Israelis or by the corruption of the Palestinian leadership. By any other reason. But if Palestinians in the street, they see hope, Hamas will lose its power.

ROUSING SONG THROUGH SPEAKER 2005 ushers in a new era. An end to the Jewish settlements in Gaza and a new Palestinian leadership. A fragile ceasefire is in place. Hamas, arguably, holds the key to its success. The prominent leaders of Hamas were killed or arrested by the Israelis. And all the time they feel they put in for Hamas, but they found Hamas like grass, it grow up again. Hamas has won a major victory in the municipal elections and has entered the race for national politics. AL-SARRAJ: As things stand today, Hamas should be forming the next government in Palestine because of the huge popularity it has shown in the municipal elections. Which would face Hamas itself with a strategic question - whether to be part of the peace process and the world politics of today, or not to be part of that and continue to be a militia group working outside the law and outside the accepted norms of this area today. One way or another, Hamas has become a central player in the region - one with whom the international community must now deal. Now even Israel is said to be talking quietly to Hamas. But Khalid Meshaal vows that armed resistance will remain "an option". He addresses his constituents by cell phone from Damascus. But there is a shift. Hamas is in the process of rewriting its original covenant. They no longer speak of liberating every inch of Palestine. At least, not now. We are now ready to establish an independent state, a purified state on any inch of Palestine, but this is not meaning that we are going to prevent our grandsons to achieve their goal. Hamas has a lot of power to continue with its terror attacks. But you must look of the changing that we are seeing now these days. It's not the Hamas that we saw two years ago or even one year ago. You will see a new picture, a new page from Hamas. But Hamas will never change. Hamas takes the long view. Achieved by political, social or military means, their cause remains the same. In their shadow, the foot soldiers of the future are waiting. Captions (c) SBS Australia 2006 Introducing the new all-wheel-drive Nissan Murano.

With heaps of space, a powerful V6 and smooth CVT transmission, The new Nissan Murano. It'll convert you. HEAVY ROCK MUSIC (Coughs) SONG: # Hey, hey... # Love your car. Try new Castrol Edge. It's our best oil yet. hand-sliced it, and combined it with the best ingredients This program is captioned live. Controversial cables - the Foreign Minister admits that he was informed about AWB's kickbacks to Saddam Hussein six years ago. Israel angry as the EU throws the Palestinian Authority a financial lifeline. Own goal - This minister, as usual, has gone too far. Tony Abbott's attempts to embarrass Labor backfire. And stealing the plot -