At the same time, Hamas has been working as a de-facto peacekeeping force along the Gaza-Israeli borders. Using Qatar as a go-between, Hamas has co-operated with Israel on many occasions. According to many sources, this co-operation is intended to prevent any escalation in the Gaza Strip – still reeling from the war in 2014 – and to help facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza.

While tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip, Hamas also met with its long-standing arch-enemy Mohammed Dahlan. Backed by Egypt, an understanding was reached between the two parties, thus lending Hamas a new lease of life.

This may well prolong the political divisions between Hamas and Abbas, while making the situation more precarious for Abbas-affiliated Fatah members resident in the Gaza Strip.

Political opportunism at the expense of public welfare

At the same time, Abbas is pushing ahead with harsh measures that will put the educational and health sectors in the Gaza Strip at risk. The PA in Ramallah recently cut salaries and enforced early retirement for thousands of public sector employees. Yet neither Hamas nor any other group is in a position to take over their management.

This move by the PA is set to have far-reaching social and economic ramifications for Gazans in general, increasing the number of those living beneath poverty line. As Omar Shaban, an economic commentator told Al Jazeera: ″The stagnant economy in Gaza needs to be stimulated with movement in the markets, but with no salaries, the workers will not pay back their debts for the store owners and everyone will be in hot water.″

In recent weeks, the military wing of Hamas advised the leading Hamas politicians to create a ″political vacuum", thereby clearing the way for military rule in the Gaza Strip. Under the plan, Hamas is to waive its political rule over the Gaza Strip; at the same time Hamas-led security forces will halt their security operations and only carry out civilian missions. The resulting security vacuum in Gaza would subsequently be filled by Hamas′ military wing, which would deploy its forces throughout the area.

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