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New Poll Finds Majority of Israelis Support Talks with Hamas


A new poll in Israel says a majority of Israelis would support holding talks with Hamas Islamic militants who control the Gaza Strip. VOA's Jim Teeple reports an Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, and Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed at least eight Hamas militants.

According to the poll that was commissioned by the left-of-center Haaretz newspaper, 64 percent of Israelis say their government should hold talks with Hamas militants - to end the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip and obtain the release of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas.

Camille Fuchs, who heads the Department of Statistics at Tel Aviv University, supervised the poll of 500 Israelis. He says the data indicates people want to find a solution to the problem of Gaza.

"The feeling is the people would like to see some kind of movement, some kind of solution. It does not mean that Hamas is less of a terrorist organization than they thought before," Fuchs said. "The rockets falling indiscriminately in Sderot do not make them think good things about Hamas but probably people want a solution."

According to the poll, 55 percent of voters who identify with the center-right Kadima Party, and 72 percent of Labor Party voters, would support holding talks with Hamas if that led to an end to violence emanating from Gaza. Forty-eight percent of voters who support the right-wing Likud Party would also support such talks.

Camille Fuchs says a broad majority of Israelis have also come to believe that peace with the Palestinians will only come about if Israel disengages from settlements it has built in the occupied West Bank

"The public opinion is today in to a direction that it is for a solution," Fuchs said. "That is clear to people even in the right wing who are talking about a two-state solution. They know more or less what kind of solution we are talking about. It is quite clear to the great majority of the population that the great majority of the settlements are going to be given up and now it is taking just too long to get that solution."

In a stark reminder of just how vulnerable Israelis living in southern Israel feel, an Israeli man was killed at a college near the town of Sderot by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, another Israeli man was wounded in the attack. Hamas militants claimed to have fired more than 20 rockets at southern Israel, including eight at Sderot.

The death is likely to increase pressure on the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to carry out a large-scale military operation against militants in Gaza.

Earlier in the day five Hamas militants were killed as they drove in a van near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. Three other militants were killed by Israeli forces in the northern and central Gaza Strip.

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