Hussein Hijazi, a columnist with the Palestinian Al Ayam newspaper, said: "It is clear today that the sharp polarisation between the two historic forces, Hamas and Fatah, has to be resolved through democratic elections or an armed confrontation will be inevitable."

Worsening situation

Ahmed Yusuf, a senior Hamas official, agreed. "[Most] people are actually taking sides, and the polarisation became stronger than before," he said.

Yusuf said the takeover had caused "damage to the Palestinian social fabric".
 
Hardships in Gaza have multiplied since Hamas took over the territory. Israel has tightened its grip on the Gaza Strip, triggering a humanitarian crisis that has left Palestinians frustrated and angry.
 
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Lama Hourani, a Palestinian women's rights activist who lived in Gaza for 13 years but moved following the takeover, said that Palestinians were sick of the division and longed for unity.
 
"We are all hopeless ... desperate. And you see from the polls nobody has trust in anything," she said.

The majority of Gaza's 3,900 factories have shut down since Israel tightened its blockade, barring most industrial materials.

Palestinian officials estimate about 100,000 people have lost their jobs since June last year.

"[We are] trying to survive individually," Lama said. "Trying to keep yourself away from all the problems, away from the corruption, away from the divisions, away from the occupation."

Declining support

Faris, a college graduate in Gaza agreed.

"I regret voting for Hamas because they made a lot of promises during the campaign but didn't deliver any of their promises," he said.

A poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) have showed a decline in the popularity of Hamas and its leaders.

Hamas has built its own security force [AFP]

Hamas came to govern the Palestinian territories in January 2006 elections on the back of an electoral campaign that promised to improve the quality of life for Palestinians and deliver Palestinian independence from Israeli occupation.

But Hamas supporters say the true villians are the international community and the economic blockade that it imposed on the territory after Hamas's electoral victory.

They say Hamas has helped in improving security in Gaza.

"Internal security has improved," Kamal, a microbiology graduate and supporter of Hamas said.

"We don't hear anymore that anyone was murdered, there are no more shootings, and there are no more kidnappings."

Far from ideal

But irrespective of the Hamas claims, Gaza remains far away from being an ideal place to live in.

Poverty is rampant and malnutrition endemic.

For most Palestinians, the way out of their misery and hopelessness is national unity.

They say unless the leaders bury their differences and come together, hardships of the ordinary Palestinians will not go away. And dreams of a Palestinian state will remain elusive.