Facing extreme political isolation and a severe economic crisis for the past several months, Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules the Gaza Strip, has encountered its toughest challenges since it ascended to power in 2007, according to observers and analysts.
The effects of the isolation and worsening economy are apparent. For six months, the Islamist movement's 51,000 employees have not received their full salaries. According to economists, during this same period, poverty and unemployment rate have grown in the enclave.
Observers say that a major cause behind Hamas' troubles is the deteriorating relations between the movement and the new transitional authorities in Egypt, especially after the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The siege that is imposed on the Gaza Strip for eight years has now reached its peak and caused a severe deterioration to all aspects of life," said Zeyad Zaza, deputy prime minister of Hamas.
Zaza, who is also a senior Hamas leader and Gaza's minister of economy, said that regional developments and tight Israeli siege have put the government in a severe financial crisis, though Hamas continues to improve the situation.
Israel recently tightened its blockade on the coastal enclave following a wave of violence last week after suspected Islamic Jihad militants fired barrages of rockets into southern Israel. Goods and products that Israel allows into Gaza have dropped to 40 percent, according to experts and businessmen in Gaza.
The Israeli tightening of the blockade coincided with Egypt's large-scale campaign to uproot the smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt. The tunnels used to bring Hamas a large amount of revenues over the past seven years.
Hamed Jad, a Gaza-based economist, said that the closure of the tunnels and blocking money transfers from abroad to Hamas in Gaza have squeezed the Islamic movement into a critical situation.
"Despite Hamas' new plans of reducing expenses and running costs, the crisis (remains) very severe because it is difficult under such circumstances to talk about investment or improving economy as Gaza Strip commercial crossings are closed," said Jad.
Mukhemer Abu Se'da, a political science professor at al-Azhar University, said he is astonished that the Palestinian population "is still keeping silent in such a bad situation."
"Is it the calm before the tempest? I think yes because such a situation is not going to be resolved for a long time and I'm certain that the people of the Gaza Strip won't be patient and keep silent forever," Abu Se'da said, adding "the growing poverty and unemployment are unbearable."
Some Hamas officials have made proposals to resolve the situation, including power-sharing deals and privatization of the Gaza Strip crossings.
Adnan Abu Aamer, a Gaza-based political science professor, said that the current crisis suffocating Gaza "urges the movement to look for alternatives, such as dissolving its government and ending its rule of the Gaza Strip."
"I think that such an option is not highly appreciated or accepted by the decision makers in Hamas movement, although such a step would reduce the security and financial pressure that is increasing on Hamas," Abu Aamer said.