Hamas scores upset victory: The Palestinian Central Election Committee confirmed Hamas as the winners of the parliamentary elections with 76 seats in the 132-seat-strong legislative body against a poor 43 for rivals Fatah.
The victory opens the door for the Islamic group to form the next government, but dimmed hopes for reviving peace talks with Israel.
Hamas said in a post-victory news conference Thursday that it won 60.3 percent of the vote in Palestinian parliament elections and would now begin a process of national reconciliation.
The leader of the group, Ismail Haniyeh, also said the Islamic group will “complete the liberation of other parts of Palestine,” but did not say which territories he was referring to or how he would go about it.
Haniyeh said he didn’t expect Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign, despite the stinging defeat of Abbas’ Fatah Party in the election.
“The relationship between us and Abu Mazen (Abbas) is based on mutual respect, despite differences ... And we are not in a fight or confrontation with him,” Haniyeh said.
In a sign of rising tension between victors and losers, a scuffle broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters in Ramallah on Thursday as a Hamas activist hung a flag of the Islamic group from the building of the Palestinian parliament.
Palestinian Authority policemen separated the fighting rival activists who exchanged stones and curses. About 13 people were injured and windows were broken in the melee.
'We won’t delude the people'
But leaders of the group vowed to Israel’s destruction have recently broadcast a softened rhetoric toward the Jewish state with Mahmoud Zaher, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, saying his group will be ready to abide by a ceasefire with Israel should it freeze its military operations in the territories.
'There is no peace process.' Hamas celebrations (Photo: AFP)
Speaking to the Associated Press, Zaher warned that Hamas will respond should Israel continue its military activities in the West Bank and Gaza, a hint that the group has no plans to disarm.
“If the Israelis remain committed to the so-called ‘ceasefire,’ we will also continue. If not, we will have no option but to protect our people and land,” he said.
Asked about the peace process, Zaher said, “There is no process. We won’t delude the people and say we are waiting and meeting for a process that does not exist.”
The Israeli cabinet headed by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held an emergency meeting to discuss Israel’s position in the wake of Hamas’ victory. Olmert is expected to declare that Israel will not hold talks with a terror group vowed to its destruction.
Associated Press contributed to the report