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Hamas leaders maintain defiance

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Hamas leaders maintain defiance

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It is not only Fatah that is seeing red at the sea of green flags that are being waved daily by triumphant Hamas supporters. Many in the outside world have greeted Hamas’s Wednesday victory in the Palestinian elections with horror. Little the political leader Khaled Meshaal said in Damascus on Saturday will have reassured those who equate Hamas with terrorism. Meshaal promised Hamas would be as successful in policies and reforms as it had been in resisting the Israelis. He rejected international calls for Hamas to disarm, and said it would create a Palestinian army if needed.

However, Hamas may be facing a cash crunch. It has over 100 000 civil servants to pay once, as is likely, it forms the new government. For that it needs customs revenues the Israelis collect on the Palestinian Authorities ‘behalf, which are likely to be withheld from the new management. US, UN, and NGO foreign aid is also vital, and the US is threatening to stop it. Ismail Haniyeh, another Hamas leader, says they will not bend to “blackmail” over aid, “ a sword over our heads”, he said, adding Hamas rejected all outside demands it modify its principles. Israel’s acting foreign minister Tzipi Livni says one election does not herald any democratic spring, and that Hamas cannot “launder” terrorism by taking part in an election. For Hamas’s supporters their victory represents an end to the old Fatah elite’s corruption and incompetence, even if they will need to work with President Abbas for some time to come.