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JERUSALEM – Hamas, a terrorist group responsible for more than 100 suicide bombings and scores of shooting and rocket attacks, won overwhelmingly in yesterday’s Palestinian parliamentary elections and will form the next government, according to initial ballot results released this morning.

The Palestinian Central Election Commission was still certifying ballots, but data leaked to the media indicates Hamas was the major victor in most Gaza cities and in many West Bank towns, even winning all available seats in Ramallah, considered a stronghold for the ruling Fatah party. Official election results are expected later today.

“Hamas has won more than 70 seats in Gaza and the West Bank, which gives it more than 50 percent of the vote,” senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah said earlier.

The Palestinian parliament has 132 seats. The party with the largest number of spots forms the government.

“We are very proud of our showing so far, which indicates the Palestinian people want to put an end to corruption and the domination of Fatah, which after all these years has not been a good leader for the Palestinians,” Hamas chief in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahar told WorldNetDaily late last night.

Al-Zahar said today his terror group will seek to create a coalition with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, but some Fatah officials told reporters the group may bolt the government and place themselves in the opposition.

“We are holding emergency meetings to decide our next course of action,” chief Palestinian negotiation minister Saeb Erekat told WND. “I don’t think Fatah is going to join. This is not our way [to be in the minority].”

Hamas officials said their overall leader Khaled Mashaal called Abbas from Syria, where he lives and operates openly, to discuss the outcome of yesterday’s vote and express his terror group’s interest in forming a political partnership.

There were some unconfirmed rumors, denied by Erekat, that Abbas was on the verge of resigning. Already today Abbas accepted the customary resignation of PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and several other senior PA officials.

Abbas asked that his current regime continue to serve as a transition government until a new one is established by Hamas and said he would address the Palestinian people later today, when the election results are certified.

Senior Palestinian political sources told WND current Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, acceptable to the United States, likely will be appointed to the post of prime minister. Fayyad, credited with reforming some of the PA’s finances, is favored by both Fatah and Hamas.

It wasn’t clear whether a Hamas official will fill the post of president.

“Even though it won big, Hamas wants to focus on rebuilding Palestinian society. It might leave the international diplomacy and position of president to another group,” said a source in Gaza close to Hamas.

Another source close to the terror group said, “Hamas understands what its victory means in terms of possible international isolation, so it might appoint a non-Hamas member as president so the Western governments will have someone to talk with.”

Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today was holding closed door sessions with cabinet ministers to decide upon an official reaction to the democratic ascension of a terrorist group to the position of Palestinian leadership.

As election results emerged, some Hamas officials claimed their group might negotiate with Israel.

Al-Zahar said it would be possible for Hamas to sign an accord with the Jewish state without recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

“Hamas wants to focus on rebuilding Palestinian society and creating a Palestinian state. To that extent, we might sign a truce with Israel that will allow us to rebuild and not focus on resistance.”

Earlier this week in a widely reported interview, al-Zahar told WND his group may negotiate with Israel through a third party.

“If the Israelis have an offer to be discussed and [the offer includes] two very important points – the release of all [Palestinian] detainees and a stop of all Israeli aggression, including the process of withdrawal from the West Bank … then we are going to search for an effective and constructive process [that will bring this] at the end,” al-Zahar claimed.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told WND today Hamas will not cease its terror activity.

“Just because we will be ruling and will be helping to reconstruct Palestinian society doesn’t mean we rule out as an option continuing the Palestinian resistance,” Zuhri said.

U.S. and European officials called Abbas to declare their support for his group and said they would not negotiate with Hamas unless it renounces violence.

“As we have said, you cannot have one foot in politics and the other in terror. Our position on Hamas [to not deal with them] has therefore not changed,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today from Switzerland.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana congratulated the Palestinians on the “smooth running” of the elections, and said the E.U. together with leaders of the U.S. and the United Nations would discuss Hamas’ victory at a meeting in London next week.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

“Hamas has to understand that with democracy goes renunciation of violence,” said Straw. “It is up to Hamas to choose. We will have to wait and see, the international community will want Hamas to make a proper rejection of violence and to acknowledge that Israel exists.”

But former President Jimmy Carter, in Jerusalem after monitoring yesterday’s elections, expressed hope the international community will accept Hamas if it claims to reject violence

“My hope is that as Hamas assumes a major role in the next government, whatever that might be, it will take a position on international standards of responsibility,” Carter told a news conference.

Previously asked by WND if he thinks a Hamas election victory would bring international isolation to the Palestinian people, al-Zahar responded, “There are many countries that suffer from international isolation, but we are speaking about very big popular support [for Hamas] from the Palestinian people. … [We have the] support of many countries other than Europe and America, which has Zionist attitudes. We will succeed to help our people by all means whether the Western people accept us or not.”

Al-Zahar said his group would not disarm and might not renew a truce with Israel that expires next month. Israel says Hamas has been involved in several rocket and shooting attacks the past year in spite of the truce.

Hamas, classified by the State Department and the European Union as a terrorist organization, is responsible for thousands of deadly shooting attacks, scores of suicide bombings and has fired more than 300 rockets and mortars into Israeli towns.

Among Hamas’ most notorious attacks are the “Passover massacre” in a Netanya hotel in 2002 in which 30 civilians celebrating the Jewish holiday were killed, the 2002 “Patt Junction bombing” of a Jerusalem bus killing 19 civilians and the bombings in 2002 and 2003 of Jerusalem bus numbers 20 and 2, killing a combined 34 civilians, among scores of other large-scale suicide attacks.

The official Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel by “assaulting and killing,” and rejects all peace talks with the Jewish state.



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