The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has tonight declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories. It's after another day of devastating violence in Gaza, when Fatah forces loyal to him took another fearful pounding from Hamas fighters. They now have just about total control of Gaza. Mr Abbas has also dissolved the laughably described 'unity' government the two factions have tried unsuccessfully to make work, and is hinting at new elections once things have calmed down.
It's difficult to see how things could have gone much better for Hamas over the last couple of days. After Fatah prevented them taking the sort of control over Gaza they felt they had earned through their victory in last year's elections, it wasn't surprising when that frustration spilled over into serious violence. Hamas have won a swift and dramatic military victory over their rivals, despite the tacit support being given to Fatah by Israel and the US. When those new elections roll round, Hamas will surely do even better than last time. Although they'll have to indulge Fatah and the West (who won't speak to Hamas because they don't recognise Israel's right to exist) and attempt some form of coalition, it'll be firmly on their terms this time.
Eventually, Israel, the US and the rest will all have to talk to Hamas. That day may be years away, but more election success for Hamas must surely bring it closer. Hamas now almost totally controls Gaza on the ground, and if in future elections Hamas can demonstrate it has the overwhelming support of all Palestinian people, the only way of getting nearer a wider peace deal involves getting round the table with them. Although it would be a brave Israeli leader who would do that, Hamas stands a much better chance than the beleagured President Abbas and his Fatah cronies of maintaining the support of the Palsetinian people in any peace process. The events of the last few days may end up being good not just for Hamas, but for everyone in the Middle East.