IN the summer of 2006, at a moment when Hezbollah rockets were falling virtually without pause on northern Israel, Nizar Rayyan, husband of four, father of 12, scholar of Islam and unblushing executioner, confessed to me one of his frustrations.
We were meeting in a concrete mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Mr. Rayyan, who was a member of the Hamas ruling elite, and an important recruiter of suicide bombers until Israel killed him two weeks ago (along with several of his wives and children), arrived late to our meeting from parts unknown.
He was watchful for assassins even then, and when I asked him to describe his typical day, he suggested that I might be a spy for Fatah. Not the Mossad, mind you, not the C.I.A., but Fatah.
What a phantasmagorically strange conflict the Arab-Israeli war had become! Here was a Saudi-educated, anti-Shiite (but nevertheless Iranian-backed) Hamas theologian accusing a one-time Israeli Army prison official-turned-reporter of spying for Yasir Arafat's Fatah, an organization that had once been the foremost innovator of anti-Israeli terrorism but was now, in Mr. Rayyan's view, indefensibly, unforgivably moderate.
In the Palestinian civil war, Fatah, which today controls much of the West Bank and is engaged in intermittent negotiations with Israel, had become Mr. Rayyan's direst enemy, a party of apostates and quislings. "First we must deal with the Muslims who speak of a peace process and then we will deal with you," he declared.
But we spoke that day mainly about the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that specifically concerned Jews and their diverse and apparently limitless character failings. This sort of conversation, while illuminating, can become wearying over time, at least for the Jewish participant, and so I was happy to learn that Mr. Rayyan had his own sore points.
"Hezbollah is doing very well against Israel, don't you think?" I asked. His face darkened, suggesting that he understood the implication of my question. At the time, Hamas, too, was firing rockets into Israel, though irregularly and without much effect.
"We support our brothers in the resistance," he said. But then he added, "I think each situation is different."
"They have advantages that we in Gaza don't have," he said. "They have excellent weapons. Hezbollah moves freely in Lebanon. We are trapped in the Israeli cage. So I don't like to hear the sentence, 'Hezbollah is the leader of the resistance.' It's a very annoying sentence. They are heroes to us. But we are the ones fighting in Palestine."
"And they're Shia," I said. Mr. Rayyan, who was educated by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, was known in Gaza as a firm defender of Sunni theology and privilege, and sometimes lectured at the Islamic University of Gaza on the danger of Shiite "infiltration."
"Yes! There are many different secret agendas," he said. "We have to be aware of this."
Hamas men across Gaza were of two minds on the subject of Hezbollah: One night, I met the members of a Hamas rocket team in the town of Beit Hanoun, on Gaza's northern border with Israel. The group's leader, who went by the name of Abu Obeidah, said that he, too, was frustrated by Hezbollah's success against Israel; he even asked if Hamas's rocket attacks that summer were featured on television in America, and seemed to deflate physically when I told him no.
"Everyone, all the media, says that Hezbollah is wonderful," he complained. "We stand with our brothers of Hezbollah, of course, but, really, look at the advantages they have. They get all the rockets they will ever need from Iran."
Hamas is not a monolith, and opinions inside the group differ about many things, including engagement with the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran. The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told me shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004 that it would be "uncharitable" to find fault with Iran.
"What do the Arab states do for us?" he asked. "Iran is steadfast against the Jews."
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