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Hamas wins overwhelming victory in Gaza vote
Hamas has won an overwhelming victory in Gaza Strip local elections, the final results showed Friday.
Hamas won control of seven of the ten municipal councils that held elections, including the three largest ones: Dir al-Balah, Bnei Siheileh, and Beit Hanun.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party won the remaining three councils, including the Marazi refugee camp.
The first-ever municipal elections in Gaza, which were held on Thursday, were seen as a test of strength between the Islamic militant group and Abbas.
Hamas won 75 out of the 118 seats in the 10 local councils, while the ruling Fatah party won 39 seats.
"Our people have a consensus on the choice of jihad and resistance and the election has underscored that concept," Hamas spokesman Muhir al-Masri told reporters following the announcement of the results.
"We consider this victory as the victory of the Palestinian people," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "It's not the victory of somebody against somebody, the competition was to serve our people's interests."\
"Hamas's victory proves Islam is the solution," blared loudspeakers as thousands of supporters celebrated in the streets beneath fluttering green Hamas flags.
Voter turnout topped 80 percent for the poll, which was the second stage of Palestinian local elections. The first was held in 26 local councils in the West Bank in December. In the West Bank elections, the Fatah party won 12 of the councils, while the Hamas won eight and independent candidtates won the remainder.
Local Government Minister Jamal al-Shobaki, a Fatah member, said the high turnout showed that "Palestinian people understand that democracy and elections are the start to the end of occupation."
The Hamas victories reflected widespread support in Gaza for the violent Islamic movement, which provides welfare, schools and kindergartens to the impoverished people in the territory, alongside its attacks against Israel.
The Hamas is leaning towards participating in July elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, and it is possible that Thursday's victory will impact the militant organization's decision.
"The results showed that our people are insisting Hamas take part in the upcoming ballot," said Abu Zuhri.
The Hamas boycotted the elections for the Palestinian Authority chairmanship held January 9, in which Abbas won a landslide victory.
A U.S. State Department official had no immediate comment on the poll, but said: "We'll follow this situation and see if it has any effect on President Abbas' moves to control the security situation and to eliminate violence."