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Hamas Holds Out Olive Branch

Supporters of the radical Islamist movement Hamas celebrate the group's victory on the Palestinian parliamentary elections at Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 26 January 2006.
Getty Images/Said Khatib
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday he is ready to maintain a cease-fire with Israel forged in February 2005 if Israel does likewise, following its upset victory in parliamentary elections, but the U.S. says it still considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

"If they are going to continue commitment to what is called quietness, then we will continue," Zahar said in an interview. "But if not, then I think we will have no option but to protect our people and our land."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the U.S. position on Hamas as a terrorist organization has not changed, despite the militant group's stunning victory in Palestinian elections.

"You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror," she said. "Our position on Hamas has therefore not changed."

"A political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal," President Bush said later Thursday during his news conference.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask Hamas to form the next Palestinian government after the Islamic militants swept parliamentary elections, and the defeated Fatah Party will serve in the opposition, a senior Fatah legislator said Thursday.

Prime Minister Ahmed Queria's government resigned Thursday.

"This is the choice of the people. It should be respected," Qureia said. The Cabinet remained in office in a caretaker capacity.

"One thing for sure: This is a month people in the Middle East will remember," says CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv, who covered the Mideast and has written several books on Israeli intelligence operations. "Israeli politics, thrown into turmoil when Prime Minister Sharon had a stroke and remains in a coma, and now on the Palestinian side, a party widely considered to be a terrorist group wins this election."

Initial exit polls had forecast a slight edge for Fatah, with Hamas coming in a strong second. The polls predicted that neither party would have a majority and would have to rely on smaller parties to form a coalition.

Palestinian pollsters were at a loss to explain the discrepancy between the exit polls. Many voters said they had been afraid to admit to pollsters they had supported Hamas, fearing retribution.

"It's almost like the 1948 U.S. election when supposedly first Dewey won and then Truman," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O'Hanlon said on CBS News' The Early Show.