Most Israelis want Hamas leaders assassinated-poll

JERUSALEM- The vast majority of Israelis believe the Jewish state should assassinate leaders of the governing Palestinian movement Hamas in response to the crisis in Gaza, a newspaper poll published on Friday showed.

The survey in the Maariv daily showed 82

percent of Israelis favoured killing leaders of the Islamic militant group, whom Israel holds responsible for the abduction of a soldier on June 25 in a cross-border raid from Gaza and recent rocket attacks.

Respondents were questioned on Wednesday, the day before Israeli tanks and troops pushed into northern Gaza, taking over areas Israel abandoned last year after 38 years of occupation.

The offensive aims to bring home Corporal Gilad Shalit and halt militant rocket fire into the Jewish state from Gaza.

Israel has hinted it might assassinate Hamas leaders unless Shalit is freed. In a clear warning, an Israeli helicopter gunship wrecked the empty Gaza office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas a few hours before dawn on Sunday.

Hamas, which is sworn to destroy Israel, took over the Palestinian government in March after winning January elections. It is already reeling under a Western aid embargo imposed because it refuses to recognise the Jewish state and disarm.

The poll showed 47 percent of respondents were unhappy with the overall performance of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, compared to 43 percent who gave a positive review. There were no comparisons from previous polls.

New Defence Minister Amir Peretz’s approval rating was low, with only 28 percent of respondents saying he was doing a good job, while 64 percent said he was not. — Reuter