Palestinian election officials confirmed late Thursday that the Islamic militant group Hamas had won an overwhelming victory based on partial results from legislative elections held on Wednesday. Early results show Hamas won 76 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council, or parliament, compared to 43 seats won by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. The election results were announced in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where emotions ran high on Thursday.
Hamas supporters marched through the hilly streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday heading for the Palestinian Legislative Council to lay a symbolic claim to the building that Palestinians consider their Parliament.
Just days ago, Ramallah was considered a stronghold of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. But in Ramallah, as elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, Fatah suffered defeat. Subdued Fatah supporters watched as the Hamas marchers paraded through Ramallah, and in a sign of potential trouble for the future, violence soon erupted.
Palestinian police fired into the air to disperse the Hamas supporters after clashes broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters over an attempt by a Hamas activist to hoist their flag on top of the parliament building. Most Palestinian police are considered Fatah loyalists and many were clearly angry at the Hamas activists on Thursday.
Mohammed Hassan, the Hamas activist who organized the march to the parliament building sought to downplay the clash.
Hassan called the violence a dispute between brothers saying it was not serious and had no bearing on the future.
Just a short distance from the parliament building Palestinian election officials confirmed what had been evident since early in the morning - Hamas had won an overwhelming victory over Fatah, based on preliminary results.
Hanna Nasr, who heads the Palestinian Election Commission, tells election observers and journalists that, based on preliminary results from both national and district lists, Hamas had clearly won enough seats to form the next Palestinian government. Nasr says final results in the election will probably be issued in a day or two, but the trend was clear; Hamas is now the dominant political party in Ramallah and across the Palestinian territories.