A well-known Hamas figure on Saturday publicly criticized the group's seizure of the Gaza Strip, in a rare case of open dissent within the ranks of the Islamist group.
In a letter addressed to Hamas leaders, Ghazi Hamad, a former spokesman of the Hamas-led government who speaks frequently to Israeli media, called Hamas' four-month rule of the coastal enclave a "trap".
"I have regarded it as a grave strategic mistake," Hamad said in his letter, published on the Palestinian Web site AMAD. "Instead of expanding its relations with the Arab and international community ... (Hamas) has become isolated and besieged in the narrow strip."
Hamad himself declined to comment on the letter.
A Palestinian official familiar with the matter said the letter was not intended for publication.
Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June after routing forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction.
Abbas responded to the takeover by dismissing a Hamas-led unity government and appointing his own administration in the occupied West Bank.
Hamas: Hamad only speaking for himselfSince June, Israel has tightened its economic and military hold on the Gaza Strip, worsening living conditions for Gaza's 1.5 million residents.
Hamas has refused to renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by interim peace agreements as demanded by the United States and other major Western powers.
Hamas leaders have proposed a long-term ceasefire in return for Israeli withdrawal from land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
"It is hard for Hamas leaders to admit their mistakes, but I tell them that admitting mistakes is something that does not go against their religion," Hamad said in the letter.
Hamad said the takeover was placing Hamas under heavy domestic pressure, causing "a thousand needless political problems".
Hamas officials declined to comment on Hamad's letter.
Hamas has tried to distance itself from Hamad since the former government spokesman voiced support for negotiations with Israel. Hamas said Hamad was only speaking for himself.