´Big win for Hamas´ in Gaza poll (BBC) 01/28/05 12:26 GMT)
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Palestinian militant group Hamas has won a huge victory in local
polls in Gaza, unofficial results indicate.
Seen in Israel as a terrorist group, Hamas appears to have won
roughly two-thirds of the seats it contested.
Israel has meanwhile said it is ending "offensive operations" in
parts of Gaza where Palestinian police are deployed.
Palestinian security forces are taking over in Gaza to curb militant
attacks on Israel, as part of a series of moves to rekindle a peace
The police took up positions in central and southern Gaza, having
already taken charge of the northern part of the territory last week.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, elected in early January, has been
calling upon Israel to respond to his efforts at reining in the
He has so far secured a temporary, unofficial truce from the militant
groups, with the promise of a more stable ceasefire if Israel agrees
to end military operations in Gaza and the West Bank.
Following the arrival of thousands of Palestinian policemen in Gaza,
the Israeli army´s chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon said on Friday that
offensive operations would cease where "there is calm and where there
is no terrorist activity against Israeli civilians and soldiers".
In elections held in 10 districts of Gaza this week, Hamas appears to
have won 77 out of 118 seats.
The ruling Fatah faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas won 26
While Hamas´s international image has been fashioned by violence, its
support in Gaza also stems from an extensive social welfare programme
and a reputation for probity.
The BBC´s Alan Johnston, in Gaza, says the results have to be kept in
context - these were only local elections, for less than half of the
councils in Gaza.
Nonetheless, he says, they give a clear indication of the real power
of Hamas in the streets.
Gaza´s large population centres of Khan Younis, Rafah and Gaza City
did not vote this time.
A Palestinian electoral official said they would cast their ballots
on 28 April.
´Rejection of corruption´
The elections - including recent votes in the West Bank - marked the
first time Hamas fielded candidates in Palestinian elections.
Although the elections were for local councils only, correspondents
say the results will be a blow to Fatah, and a step forward for
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told the AFP news agency the results
were a victory for democracy and showed that the "Palestinian people
Hamas militants are behind most of the suicide bombings inside
Israel, and the attacks on Israeli forces and settlers in the
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon praised Mr Abbas on Thursday,
describing conditions as ripe for "a historic breakthrough" in
relations with the Palestinians.
Mr Abbas has ruled out an armed crackdown on the militants in favour
Other measures include a ban on civilians bearing weapons in public.
The new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to visit the
region shortly to assess the peace process. (© BBC MMV 01/28/05)
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