A growing challenge to the rule of Hamas

Following the clashes in Gaza between Hamas and an al-Qaeda affiliated group, the Washington Post offers the following (largely believable) analysis:

The deadly shootout in a Gaza Strip mosque Friday between members of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement and a militant splinter group may signal further challenges to Hamas’s authority in Gaza as it tries to reconcile the demands of running a government with its policy of armed conflict with Israel, according to Palestinian and Israeli analysts.

After two years as the sole authority in the Palestinian enclave, Hamas is not doing particularly well on either front — with living standards in decline under an Israeli-imposed embargo and the conflict with Israel ratcheted down since a punishing three-week war that ended in January.

The battle at the mosque was waged against an organization, Jund Ansar Allah, that has carried out attacks against Israel but that had in recent months stepped up criticism of Hamas, saying it was not strict enough in its interpretation of Islam or aggressive enough in fighting Israel. The group, influenced by al-Qaeda, was blamed for recent attacks on Internet cafes, beauty salons and other targets in Gaza it considered an affront to its vision of Islam.