PM Qurei, entire Palestinian cabinet resign en masse
A senior official in the ruling Fatah Party on Thursday called senior Hamas leader Ismail Hania and congratulated him on the group's election victory, Hamas said in a statement.
The call by the Fatah official, Hussein al-Sheik, to Hania marked the first formal acknowledgement by Fatah that it has lost the election.
A senior Hamas official said recognizing and negotiating with Israel are "not on our agenda."
However, Hamas also signaled flexibility, saying it wants a "political partnership," presumably with Fatah.
The Palestinian Cabinet submitted their resignations following the apparent Hamas victory Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's office said, setting the stage for the Islamic group to lead a new Palestinian government.
The resignations were in part a formality required after an election, but the timing of the move, hours before the release of official results, was surprising. The announcement from Qurei's office did not mention Hamas.
Under Palestinian law, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must now ask the party that holds a majority in the legislature to form a new government.
Hamas won virtually all of the 66 seats in electoral districts in the Palestinian parliament vote, election officials said Thursday.
In the election, 132 seats were up for grabs, half chosen from party slates and half in districts. In the districts, Hamas won a vast majority of the seats, election officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the vote count was not complete.
The West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem were divided into 16 electoral districts. In the biggest districts of Gaza City and Hebron, Hamas swept all seats, according to the officials.
Candidates of the rival Fatah Party only won in the districts of Kalkilya and Jericho. In Ramallah, where Palestinian government is located, Hamas won four seats and Fatah got one.
In Jerusalem, Hamas won four of six seats, with 60 percent of the vote counted, the officials said.
Earlier Thursday, Hamas' top candidates on claimed the group won a majority of seats in Palestinian legislative elections, despite exit polls showing them finishing second to Fatah.
Fatah officials concurred that Hamas captured a majority of seats, shortly after the terrorist group claimed victory.
The Fatah officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected Hamas to win about 70 seats, which would give the Islamists a majority in the 132-seat parliament.