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    Israelis want talks with Hamas

    Jerusalem (AP): A majority of Israelis want their government to hold talks with the Hamas militants who control the Gaza Strip, a poll showed on Wednesday.

    Israel has been working to isolate Hamas since the Islamic group came to power in Gaza in June, 2007, and has said talks with the group won't be possible until it recognise Israel, renounces violence and observes signed peace agreements. Hamas has been labelled a terror organisation by Israel, the US and EU.

    But the poll, carried out by the Dialog company and published today in the 'Haaretz' daily, showed that 64 per cent of Israelis believe Israel should talk to Hamas now to bring a halt to ongoing rocket barrages fired by Gaza militants at Israeli towns and to win the release of a captured soldier.

    The soldier, Gilad Schalit, was seized in June, 2006 by Hamas militants and has been held in Gaza since then as talks on a prisoner swap have stalled.

    Only 28 per cent of Israelis reject talks with Hamas, according to the poll. The poll included 500 respondents and had a margin of error of 4 per cent.

    Though the Israeli government has consistently rejected talking to the Islamic group, some Israeli officials have recently been expressing support for such talks, a proposal once unthinkable given Hamas' history of suicide bombings in Israel and its calls for Israel's destruction.

    The officials include former heavyweights in Israel's defence establishment and Eli Moyal, mayor of the town of Sderot, which is bombarded nearly daily by Gaza militants.


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