An internet website identified with Fatah reported Saturday that the head of Hamas's military wing, Ahmed Jabri, admitted his organization was losing control of the Gaza Strip.
PalPress also published a letter allegedly addressed by Jabri to Khaled Mashal, Hamas' politburo chief in Damascus, in which he writes that "the situation in Gaza is deteriorating".
"The Strip is in a state of explosions and chaos, and operatives from Izz al-Din al-Qassam (Hamas' military wing) are being killed," the letter says, likely referring to a recent bout of assassinations in Gaza.
"This is the second letter sounding warning bells, the first one having been sent in November. I want to stress once again that the situation in Gaza is worsening. We began to lose control of the internal situation after you asked us to transfer control to the government and not to interfere, in order to allow it to direct the affairs of Gaza."
Jabri also criticizes the Hamas government for disregarding the military wing's achievements during Operation Cast Lead while focusing on its assassination of Fatah operatives accused of collaborating with Israel.
"A number of government officials came forth and complained of the operations in which we got rid of some Fatah agents, something which was necessary to secure peace on the internal front," the letter says.
"Izz al-Din al-Qassam may have made a few stupid mistakes, such as killing operatives from the Palestinian Authority's security forces, which stemmed from personal motives – but the security of the movement was always vastly more important than a death here and there."
Hamas rejected the website's report. "These are baseless accusations and libel committed by a number of news agencies," Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
"This is another attempt by internet sites to degrade Hamas, shake stability in the Gaza Strip, and create confusion in the media."
Abu Obeida denied that such a letter had been written and postulated, "Is it logical that such an important internal letter would reach such a website?"
Despite the tough response, a number of Hamas sources confirmed to the paper that internal conflict does exist within the organization. They also did not deny that the recent tension in the Strip was cause in part by the increasing empowerment of radical Salafi groups.