Hamas: Keeping Cease-Fire Up To Israel

Palestinian supporters of the Hamas celebrate their victory in parliamentary elections in West Bank City of Nablus Thursday Jan. 26, 2006. The Islamic Hamas won a huge majority in parliamentary elections as Palestinian voters rejected the longtime rule of the Fatah Party, throwing the future of Mideast peacemaking into question, officials from both major parties said Thursday. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday he is willing to maintain a cease-fire with Israel forged in February 2005 if Israel does likewise.

The Islamic militant group claimed a landslide victory in Wednesday's Palestinian parliamentary elections, winning 76 seats in the 132-member legislature, election officials said Thursday. The rival Fatah party, which had controlled Palestinian politics for four decades, won 43 seats.

"If they (Israel) 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."

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 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 covers the Middle East 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. But 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.