Hamas shocker: Hamas is assured of winning at least 70 and as many as 80 of 132 parliament seats and beating out Fatah in the Palestinian Authority elections, sources at the PA Central Elections Committee say.
Hamas' top candidate, Ismail Haniya, is expected to convene a press conference Thursday and announce the group's elections victory. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia announced he was resigning his post in wake of Hamas' stunning defeat and said the Islamic group now has to form a government.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya celebrates win (Photo: AP)
As a result of the move, the current Palestinian government will disperse.
Earlier, senior Hamas figures, including the group's leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, said the organization has likely won the Palestinian Authority elections.
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Later, Fatah officials also said it appears Hamas won a majority of seats in parliament. Fatah officials said Hamas may have won as many as 70 seats, but Hamas sources later said the group won 75 seats out of 132.
Fatah sources said they are concerned Hamas will thwart agreements with Israel should the group form the next government, therefore forcing PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to resign. Meanwhile, the sources said the Palestinian Authority will now be facing a dead-end, with uncertainly over Abbas' ability to negotiate agreements and pass laws.
However, the sources also noted the PA chairman is allowed, by law, to disperse the parliament.
Talks with Israel 'not on agenda'
A senior Hamas official said Thursday recognizing Israel and talks with the Jewish state are "not on our agenda."
"Negotiations with Israel are not on our agenda," said Mushir al-Masri, who won the election in his home district in the northern Gaza Strip.
"Recognizing Israel is not on the agenda either now," he said.
Meanwhile, despite its pledge to cooperate with all Palestinian factions, however, Hamas stressed the group has no intention to disarm, with al-Zahar reiterating Hamas does not plan to "change even one word" in its charter, which calls for Israel's destruction.
As the vote count continues, it appears that Hamas is indeed gaining in strength. According to final results, which are not yet official, it turns out Hamas won all nine seats in Hebron and defeated all Fatah candidates there, including Jibril Rajoub. Hamas was also able to turn things around in two West Bank towns, Salfit and Tubas, and won there too.
The speculation over the results forced the Elections Committee to announce a press conference at 9 a.m. Thursday in order to publish the results in a bid to reduce the tensions and uncertainty in the Palestinian Authority in recent hours. However, PA officials later said the results will only be announced at 7 p.m.
'Hamas taking over PA'
Earlier polls gave the Fatah a victory, albeit by a small margin, but the vote count points to a tighter race with Hamas taking a small lead.
Meanwhile, a Fatah source told Ynet Thursday morning that although Hamas' elections campaign was conducted under the slogan "the green crawl to the Legislative Council," at this time it is clear Hamas is in fact heading to a takeover of the Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, Hamas figures attempted to allay fears over a possible victory by the group. Senior Hamas members, including Sheikh Ismail Haniya and al-Zahar, said Hamas is interested in a full partnership with all Palestinian Authority factions and parties regardless of the final election results.
Earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for international assistance in reviving peace talks with Israel after the elections, expressing readiness to meet with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Abbas congratulated the Palestinians for participating in the democratic process, praising the PA’s success in reversing an Israeli decision to ban elections in east Jerusalem.
AP contributed to the report