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    Plunged into turmoil

    So Hamas won big against Fatah in the Palestinian elections. Great:

    International peace broking in the Middle East was plunged into turmoil on Friday by Hamas’s shock Palestinian election win and a U.S. vow not to deal with the Islamic group until it renounced violence against Israel.

    Many world leaders turned up the heat on Hamas to moderate policies and Israel itself ruled out talks with any Palestinian government that involved Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction and has been behind dozens of suicide bombings.

    Fears of internal Palestinian unrest grew when hundreds of gunmen from President Mahmoud Abbas’s long-dominant Fatah movement marched in Gaza City, firing in the air to protest against the Hamas victory and demanding that Abbas resign.

    Hamas’s triumph on Thursday in winning 76 seats in the 132-member Palestinian parliament against 43 for Fatah was widely seen as a political earthquake in the Middle East, triggered by voter disenchantment with corruption.

    “I have made it very clear…that a political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of a platform is a party with which we will not deal,” U.S. President George W. Bush told a news conference in Washington.

    The US, Russia, the UN, and the EU (the Palestinian Authority’s biggest financial backer) are pressing Hamas to soften its position against Israel. Since it’s still calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, that’s going to be some softening.

    There’s no cause-effect relationship here, but the Japanese cabinet resolved today to extend the deployment of SDF personnel in the Golan Heights:

    In a 27 January cabinet meeting, the government decided to extend by six months the deployment of the SDF in the Golan Heights, which was to expire in March but will now last until September. The measure follows a half-year extension of peace-keeping activities by the UN Security Council’s United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The SDF has participated in UNDOF, which conducts peace-keeping operations, since 1996; it conducts operations that include the transporting of basic supplies for living, the dissemination of information from headquarters, and project implementation.

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