Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh and the group’s military ‎leader Yahya Sinwar have been repeatedly locking horns over the ‎terrorist group’s policies in the Gaza Strip, and the rivalry has gotten to the point where the two no longer speak to each ‎other, Israel Hayom learned on Wednesday.

According to Gaza sources, the growing animosity between the two ‎has caused a rift in Hamas, pitting Haniyeh’s supporters against Sinwar’s supporters, causing a devastating split.

Haniyeh’s camp includes ‎top political officials in the group, and Sinwar’s camp hails from Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, led by ‎Hamas strongman Mohammed Deif. ‎

A senior Hamas official described the rift in Hamas’s leadership as ‎‎“unprecedented,” saying it has undermined the Egyptian-led ‎efforts to strike an agreement between Hamas and Israel that ‎would allow for the economic rehabilitation of Gaza.‎

‎“Sinwar, who was released [from Israeli prison] as part of the ‎‎[2011] Schalit deal, is very committed to the issue of Palestinian ‎prisoners,” the official added. “He promised the prisoners still in jail that he will do ‎everything in his power to secure their release, and he is following through on that. ‎Haniyeh is less interested in the prisoners and has refused ‎various offers for a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.”

Sinwar, the official added, “is perceived as much more hawkish than ‎Haniyeh, because he comes from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, ‎but the truth is he is far more pragmatic than Haniyeh, who can’t ‎seem to make difficult decisions and take responsibility for them.”

A former senior Hamas official told Israel Hayom that the current crisis in ‎the organization is so severe that many of its top members have decided to resign over it. ‎

He said that former Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has been asked to ‎mediate between Haniyeh—his successor—and Sinwar, but has ‎failed to bridge the gaps between the two. ‎

“The result is that Hamas now has a two-headed leadership,” the former official said. “The political wing and the military wing each decide on their ‎own policies without much coordination.‎”

Giving an example of the bad blood between Haniyeh and Sinwar, ‎another official recalled that “a few weeks ago, Haniyeh arrived at the ‎‎[Israel-Gaza] border to support demonstrators there. His security ‎guards whisked him away within minutes, fearing he would be hurt by the Israeli military’s tear gas and crowd control measures. A short while later, Haniyeh learned that Sinwar had arrived at the ‎Khan Yunis protest and addressed the protesters. He ‎was furious and told his associates, ‘Sinwar is doing everything he ‎can to undermine my position, humiliate me and embarrass me.’ ”

Egyptians don’t see the point

The ongoing rivalry within Hamas even escalated recently, with cells ‎loyal to the opposite camps clashing violently, firing warning ‎shots at officials’ homes and planting explosives under ‎their cars. ‎

Top officials in Hamas’s political wing have even accused the military ‎wing of establishing a “hit squad” tasked with intimidating Sinwar’s ‎political rivals. ‎

Several Hamas officials in both camps said that the Egyptian ‎mediators have also realized that engaging with Sinwar was more ‎effective than negotiating with Haniyeh. ‎

‎“It’s not for nothing that all the recent talks involved Sinwar. The ‎Egyptians don’t really see the point of talking with Haniyeh,” one ‎official said. ‎

Also on Wednesday, U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov ‎downplayed reports suggesting Israel and Hamas have made ‎progress on a potential prisoner swap. ‎

Gaza’s rulers are holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Staff ‎Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed during “Operation ‎Protective Edge” in the summer of 2014. Ethiopian Israeli Avera ‎Mengistu and Bedouin Israeli Hisham al-Sayed, both mentally disabled, crossed into Gaza voluntarily in 2014 and 2015 ‎and were captured by Hamas.‎

‎“We are very far from a deal that would secure the return of the ‎Israeli soldiers’ bodies and the two living Israelis held by Hamas,” ‎he said.‎

Mladenov also criticized the Palestinian Authority and said that “since ‎the Egyptians began mediating between Israel and Hamas in 2017, ‎‎‘someone out there’ is trying to disrupt any progress.”