Hamas (search) made a strong showing in local elections in the West Bank (search), the first time the Islamic militant group competed at the polls, according to preliminary elections results obtained Friday.

Elections for local councils were held in 26 communities on Thursday, with 150,000 eligible voters chosing among more than 800 candidates. Sixteen percent of the 360 local council seats were reserved for women.

According to preliminary results obtained by The Associated Press, the ruling Fatah movement won a majority in 14 towns, while Hamas took control in nine communities. In two, a joinr, on the local level, membership in a political faction is not always clearcut, and some candidates could have been claimed by the rival groups.

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri (search), said the result was a reflection of strong support for the group among Palestinians.

Abu Zuhri suggested that Hamas was ready to forge coalitions with Fatah. "The coming stage is one of development and rebuilding our society, and we will cooperate with everyone to strengthen our society."

Official results were to be released Saturday.