The small piece of land on the eastern Mediterranean known as the Gaza strip has seen its share of violence over the decades, with a series of conflicts fought along its narrow alley ways and on its sandy beaches. The latest round of fighting, gun battles that left two dozen men dead last weekend in a mosque in southern Gaza , opened yet another chapter in Gaza 's troubled history.
Unlike other recent clashes, the fighting this time did not pit Israelis against Palestinians. It did not involve loyalists of the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas competing for power. No, this was a new confrontation, one that brought to the surface yet another conflict dividing Palestinians. This time, the forces of Hamas, the Islamic party that rules Gaza, fought against an even more radical organization. Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God) declared an Islamic emirate in Gaza , a step towards the ultimate goal of building a global Islamic caliphate along the lines of the ideas promulgated by al-Qaida.
This latest outbreak of violence in Gaza underscores just how unstable and unpredictable the strip has become since the Islamic organization Hamas pushed the more secular Fatah out of power in 2007, taking complete control of the territory and prompting a harsh crackdown from Israel and a deep fissure within the Palestinian movement.