Hamas Islamists ruling the Gaza Strip face a growing security challenge from al-Qaeda-inspired Palestinian groups in the religiously conservative enclave.
Fundamentalist Muslims, or Salafis, whose agenda of global jihad, or holy war, against the West is against Hamas’s nationalist goals, have stepped up bombing attacks in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, targeting Hamas security men and offices.
Analysts say those groups, which identify with al-Qaeda but have no clear hierarchical connection to it, do not pose an immediate threat to Hamas's rule over the Gaza Strip, but will remain a thorn in the movement’s side in the foreseeable future.
“Hamas is capable of besieging and weakening them but that would be costly on political, security and moral levels because the conflict would be among groups that hold the same religious ideology,” said political analyst Talal Okal.
He described the radical Islamist groups as a security concern for Hamas, a movement the Salafis believe broke with Islam by taking part in a US-backed 2006 Palestinian election, a vote it won.