Celebrating victory at one of Islam’s holiest shrines – thousands of Hamas supporters have gathered on the stairs of Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque to mark their party’s landslide victory in the Palestinian legislative election.
Throughout the Palestinian territories and across the Middle East at large there have been celebrations to mark Hamas’ rise to power. The unexpected outcome of the vote has also sent shockwaves throughout the rest of the world, sparking fears of renewed unrest in the region.
The question on everyone’s lips now is who will take over from prime minister Ahmed Qurei and become leader of the new Palestinian cabinet. Many believe it could be Hamas top man Ismaiel Haniyeh.
A radical politician, Haniyeh recently said in an interview that he sees no contradiction between Hamas pursuing its armed struggle and, at the same time, sitting in parliament. He says he has asked President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him to discuss the formation of the next government in the coming days. Fatah’s defeat comes as a severe blow to Abbas who had said he would resign if he couldn’t pursue his commitment to reaching a peace deal with Israel. Hamas, however, has signalled it will allow him to handle peace negotiations while it focuses on the domestic agenda including health care and education.