Palestinian support for Gaza rocket attacks falls: survey

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Palestinian support for rocket fire by Gaza militants on southern Israel has fallen sharply over the past four months, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

“Support for firing locally-made rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli regions has dropped,” a poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre said, indicating it had fallen to 38.4 percent, from 74 percent in December, just weeks after the end of a major confrontation with Israel.

The eight-day operation, which ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce on Nov. 21, saw the Israeli air force pounding the Hamas-run territory as militants there fired more than 1,000 rockets over the border.

The truce has been largely respected, although in recent weeks hardline Salafist Islamists have fired several rockets over the border, causing no damage or casualties but prompting Israel to impose commercial and travel restrictions as a punitive measure.

Of 1,179 people interviewed in Gaza and the West Bank, which is controlled by Fatah, Hamas’s political rival, 60.2 percent said “military action” harmed Palestinian national interests.

And the percentage of people backing military operations against Israel dropped from 50.9 to 31.1 percent from December to March.

On the issue of peace negotiations with Israel, almost two-thirds -- 65.1 percent -- said the Palestinian leadership should only return to talks if there is a freeze on Jewish settlement building.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly said there will be no new talks without a freeze, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected such an idea, saying the Jewish state would only enter new negotiations without such preconditions.

But while some Palestinians -- 36.8 percent -- see talks as the best way to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state, a growing number of people believe that non-violent resistance is the way forward, with 30.4 percent in favor, up from 21.9 percent in the previous survey.

Sit-ins and encampments on land slated for settlement building have recently become a Palestinian tactic to protest against Israeli settlement expansion.

Meanwhile, if elections were held today, 42.6 percent said they would vote for Fatah compared with 20.6 for Hamas, in what was an increase of several percentage points for Fatah at Hamas’s expense, since the November operation.

The survey was conducted from March 27 to 31 and with an error margin of three percent.

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