Israeli poll finds 49 pct support for holding off on Gaza invasion

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Almost half of Israelis want to hold off on any invasion of Gaza, according to a poll published on Friday, in what may indicate a dip in support for the planned next stage of the counter-offensive against Hamas militants holding some 200 hostages.

Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas in response to the Palestinian group’s killing and kidnapping spree in its southern communities on Oct. 7, and has been stepping up tank and infantry raids in concert with heavy shelling of the enclave.

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Asked if the military should immediately escalate to a large-scale ground offensive, 29 percent of Israelis agreed while 49 percent said “it would be better to wait” and 22 percent were undecided, the poll published in the Maariv newspaper said.

The daily said the results contrasted with its Oct. 19 poll that found 65 percent support for a major ground offensive.

“From a breakdown of the answers, it emerges that there is no division in accordance with political camp or demographics, and that it is almost certain that the developments on the matter of the hostages, which is now topping the agenda, have had a great impact on this shift (in opinion),” Maariv wrote.

Hamas freed four hostages over the last week amid efforts by regional mediator countries to arrange a larger-scale release.

Hamas says around 50 hostages have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza. One ex-hostage said she had been held, along with at least two dozen others, in an underground Hamas tunnel and bunker complex that is a focus of Israel’s offensive.

Maariv polled a representative sample of 522 adult Israelis. The margin of error was 4.3 percent, the newspaper said.

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