The "Voice of the People" is no longer heard in Gaza. The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, closed the radio station on the same day it went to battle with supporters of its rival, Fatah. The "Voice of the People" was affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, not Fatah. And its closure reflected the determination of Hamas to take full control of its stronghold.
The spiral of violence between Hamas and Fatah came amid diplomatic efforts, led by Egypt, to reconcile the two leading Palestinian groups. These attempts continue but their focus has shifted from brokering a power-sharing agreement to restoring calm. While the fighting has stopped for now, the rift in the Palestinian leadership has widened, probably beyond repair.
Hamas has been ruling Gaza since it forced the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) out of the Strip in June 2007. This coup ended the "cohabitation" government that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas grudgingly formed after the Islamic movement won parliamentary elections in 2006. It also set the stage for a confrontation between the two groups that has escalated ever since.
All efforts at reconciliation, including an initiative by Saudi Arabia, have failed.
And they will continue to fail. The fighting between the two groups is fueled by an unbridgeable ideological divide as well as a power struggle over who should lead the Palestinians and to what end. The Palestinian people are caught in the middle of this fight. As if living under occupation were not painful enough, they have had to endure the horrors of this internal war.
But neither Fatah nor Hamas is able to end their suffering. Abbas is too weak to bring his people the peace that they have been denied. Israel has made a mockery of him as it paralyses the peace process. Hamas, on the other hand, is not able to meet the basic needs of Gaza's residents, mainly because of Israel's closure of the Strip. And while Abbas makes promises he cannot keep, Hamas lives on slogans devoid of practical value.
The international community is equally complicit in Gaza's suffering. In particular, the United States has a direct responsibility for the human tragedy that unfolds daily. Before the 2006 elections, Abbas tried in vain to convince Washington to agree to postponing the elections until peace talks could break the deadlock. Washington shunned him. The PLO ran on a record of failure. Hamas won.
With a majority in parliament, Hamas earned the right to lead the cabinet but Washington protested the formation of a Hamas-led national unity government. It pushed for democracy, but refused to accept its outcome and forced Hamas into international isolation.
Instead of engaging Hamas in a dialogue that could have eventually softened its positions, the international community pushed the Islamic movement into a corner, giving it no incentive to reconsider its policies. Although Europe eventually realised that boycotting Hamas was ineffective, its revelation came too late to matter.
Hamas has also played into the hands of its enemies by failing to transform itself from a revolutionary movement into a government. It assumed political office but refused to play by political rules. Hamas has stuck to absolutist positions that only serve Israel's strategic objective of aborting peace talks aimed at ending the occupation and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state.
The situation in Gaza has worsened since the 2007 coup, with civilians in Gaza enduring Israeli punitive measures and paying a terrible price. It has been blockaded and denied essential food and energy supplies. Gaza's level of poverty exceeds 70 per cent and its unemployment is estimated at over 50 per cent.
New political initiatives are expected to be launched after this latest round of violence. But like previous efforts, they stand a slim chance of reuniting the Palestinian leadership.
Hamas will not surrender power in Gaza to the PLO while Fatah cannot unilaterally change the status quo. Early elections have been suggested as a face saving exit to allow the formation of a new government. That is an overly optimistic expectation because the situation on the ground is too unstable. And even if an election is held, the political fragmentation will continue. Hamas will still win a majority and Abbas will suffer another humiliating defeat, thanks to Israel's blockage of the peace process.
Nothing short of a major breakthrough in the peace negotiations will put the process of Palestinian reconciliation in motion. Given Israel's intransigence and shaky political scene, that is almost an impossibility. Even in that unlikely event, such a process will be long and difficult. Hamas will want to have the major say on the future of Gaza and Abbas cannot sign a peace deal on the West Bank alone.
Despite the return of relative calm to Gaza after the weekend's fatal clashes, there are no guarantees that violence will not erupt again. Gaza seems doomed to prolonged period of uncertainty. The international community might not be in a position to bring security to Gaza, but it can certainly free its 1.5 million residents from poverty. Maintaining the blockade will not weaken Hamas. It will only destroy the credibility of the PLO and push Gazans towards fatalist positions. Too many of them already believe that life cannot become any worse.
Ayman Safadi is a former editor of Alghad in Jordan and a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs