Poll: 73.9% support Abbas’ forces taking control of the Gaza Strip crossings

The Centre for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University in the northern West Bank city of Nablus issued on Wednesday the results of a Palestinian Public Opinion the centre conducted. In that poll 73.9% of respondents supported handing over the responsibilities of the Gaza Strip crossings to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
The centre conducted the Palestinian Public Opinion poll during the period of 26-28 January 2008. It included among other issues the current political situation especially the incidents that took place in Gaza, and the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel.

The poll sample included 1360 persons whose age group is 18 and above and who have the right to vote. The enclosed questionnaire was distributed to 860 people in the West Bank and 500 people in the Gaza Strip. The sample was drawn randomly and the margin of error is about ±3%; and 2.7% of the people refused to answer the questionnaire.

The General Results of the poll also included:

54.8% of respondents rejected the firing of home made shells into Israel from the Gaza Strip while 43.7% supported it. 43.4% of respondents thought that the firing of shells damages the Palestinian cause while 33.9% thought that they serve the Palestinian cause in a positive way.

69.9% of respondents are in favor of stopping the firing home made shells from the Gaza Strip in return for lifting the siege on the region. 50.7% of respondents believed that if the Hamas movement ends it control in Gaza, the Israeli siege on the coastal region will end.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began a visit to Egypt on Wednesday where he is expected to hold talks with Egyptian officials on the situation of the borders between Gaza and Egypt. Meanwhile, representatives of Hamas headed to Egypt for talks on the same issue. The Hamas team included Mahmoud Zahar, one of the prominent leaders of the movement.

Two days ago, Abbas met with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and both leaders agreed on an arrangement regarding the Rafah border crossing. Abbas demands that his security forces should control the crossing point and is apparently supported in his position by Israel and the United States in addition to some Arab countries. But on the ground, Hamas which holds control of the Gaza Strip refused to be excluded from any agreement regarding border arrangement issues.

Hamas media spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Tuesday that the talks which will be conducted by Hamas with Egypt are separate from any talks held by Fatah officials loyal to Abbas, and that there will be no meetings between Hamas and Fatah officials.

Abu Zuhri added that Hamas wants the Rafah Crossing to be controlled only by Egypt and the Palestinians, without any intervention from Israel. On Monday, Egypt stated that it is willing to hand the Rafah Border Crossing to Abbas, and this offer was welcomed by several Arab leaders, but Hamas rejected the offer.

Last week Palestinian civilians and resistance groups opened around a dozen holes in the Rafah–Egypt border wall, following two weeks of an Israeli siege that left the 1.5 million Gaza residents lacking food, water, and medicine and fuel supplies. Israel says the siege is to force the Palestinian resistance from firing home made shells at Israeli towns near the coastal region.

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Ghassan Bannoura

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