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In pummeled Gaza, Hamas recoups

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But a week into the cease-fire, international leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said "no" to dealing with Hamas, now seem to be saying "maybe."

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are in need of assistance and the international community is keen to get it to them. It appears that the donors might need Hamas to help reverse the state of destruction and suffering across Gaza. Add to this a new US president who has expressed an openness to talking with controversial world figures seen as America's foes, and Hamas foresees the possibility of a shift in how it is received.

"The Americans and Europeans were mistaken to boycott Hamas from the start," says Yousef, who lived for many years in the US. While he sees the potential for an Obama administration opening, he says that he was disappointed by what he heard in President Obama's speech last week.

"I expected Obama to say that he will go and talk to everybody," Yousef says. "We'd like to see America as impartial, not just seeing Hamas as a terrorist group." He charged that the US, as the world's foremost salesman of democracy, was still refusing to recognize the results of the January 2006 parliamentary elections that brought Hamas to power.

"The people chose Hamas, and America and the rest of the world should respect that," he says.

In his first foreign policy speech on Thursday, Obama stuck close to the conditions that were set up by the Quartet – a four-party alliance that includes the UN, the US, the European Union, and Russia – for dealing with the crisis in the Middle East following Hamas' parliamentary victory three years ago.

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