Hamas’s failure to enforce the latest Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel is seen by Palestinians as a sign that the Islamist movement may be losing control over the Gaza Strip.

In the past, Hamas has shown that its security forces are capable of implementing cease-fires with Israel.

Hamas, whose leaders maintain that they are not interested in providing Israel with an excuse to launch another major military offensive in Gaza, had even gone as far as detaining members of other groups who insisted on launching rockets at Israel.

But in recent months Hamas did not need to resort to force to stop members of Islamic Jihad and other armed groups from attacking Israel. Instead, Hamas leaders managed to reach agreement with the other organizations about the need to “preserve the state of calm with Israel.”

Now, however, Hamas appears to have lost control over the various armed groups operating inside the Gaza Strip. Although Hamas has expressed readiness to honor the latest cease-fire, it has been unable to persuade other organizations to follow suit.

Internal disputes and loss of Syrian and Iranian support, on the other hand, have had a negative impact on Hamas’s performance.

Some Palestinians in Gaza also said that Hamas is not trying hard to enforce the cease-fire out of fear of facing accusations of preventing “resistance” attacks against Israel. Hamas leaders cannot afford to be branded as traitors at a time when Islamists are growing stronger in a number of Arab countries, especially in Egypt.

Another reason Hamas seems to be losing control, Palestinians say, lies in the fact that Muslim terrorists from Arab countries are operating inside the Gaza Strip.

These men, some of whom are affiliated with al-Qaida, are said to be behind the recent terror attacks from Gaza and along the Israel- Egypt border.

It’s also possible that the ruling military council in Egypt, which is not particularly supportive of Hamas, would like to see the Islamist movement weakened, if not removed from power. Hamas despises the generals who are in control in Egypt and sees them as puppets of the former hostile regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the de facto ruler of Egypt, and his military council are also aware that Hamas poses a threat to their country’s national security and interests. Recent reports in the official Egyptian media have held Hamas and other radical Islamist groups responsible for turning Sinai into a center for jihad.

Even if Hamas manages this time to enforce its will on the terror groups in the Gaza Strip, it has become evident that the movement will no longer be able to boast that it is in full control.

Hamas has been avoiding elections because it is pessimistic about the outcome, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview with The Washington Post published Friday.

“It is a well-known fact borne out by various opinion polls that there has been a steady erosion in Hamas’s standing, both in the West Bank and Gaza,” Fayyad said.

“I believe that is why they have been dodging elections.”

Fayyad said that it was unacceptable that elections have not been held recently in the PA, calling a vote “overdue” and saying that it is “something I believe is going to happen, and I hope sooner rather than later.”

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