Hamas says it has put an end to what has been seen as the greatest challenge to its control of Gaza since it took over the Strip.

The political and military group is being blamed for a rise in extremist activity in the territory over the past two years.

On Friday, a little-known pro-al-Qaeda group called Jund Ansar Allah, or Soldiers of the Supporters of God, proclaimed "the creation of an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip".

They reportedly claimed Hamas was too liberal and demanded the territory to be governed purely by sharia, Islamic law.
Within 24 hours, Abdel-Latif Moussa, their cleric leader, and a number of followers had been killed in clashes with Hamas security forces.

Is Hamas beginning to lose popularity? What is the significance of pro-al-Qaeda groups emerging in Gaza? And are 'extremist' groups a serious threat to Hamas' rule in the Gaza Strip? 

Inside Story presenter Imran Garda is joined by Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas spokesperson, Basem Ezbidi, a political analyst at Birzeit University, and Naeem Jinnah, the director of the African-Middle East Centre, based in South Africa.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Sunday, August 16, 2009.

Source: Al Jazeera