Most residents of the Gaza Strip are afraid to openly express their political views following Hamas' takeover of the area in June, according to a poll released Wednesday, the latest sign of public discontent with Gaza's Islamic militant rulers.
The poll found that a majority of Gazans oppose rocket attacks on Israel, favor a peace agreement with the Jewish state, and do not consider the Hamas authority in Gaza to be the legitimate Palestinian government. It also concluded that Hamas would lose elections if a new vote were held today.
The poll was conducted by Near East Consulting, a research firm based in the West Bank. The firm said it surveyed 470 Palestinians in Gaza by telephone on September 25-27. It did not give a margin of error.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-June after routing forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. Abbas responded by forming a pro-Western government in the West Bank.
According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents said they are now afraid to express their political views following the Hamas takeover, and 60 percent say Hamas' paramilitary police, known as the Executive Force, has done a poor job respecting individual rights.
It also found 52 percent of respondents consider Abbas' government to be the legitimate Palestinian ruling authority, while only 26 percent favor the Hamas government led by Ismail Haniyeh. Sixty-four percent said they trust Abbas, compared with 36 percent who trust Fatah.
In another blow to Hamas, 72 percent said they support a final peace agreement with Israel, and 55 percent called on Hamas to change its position toward the Jewish state. Hamas opposes peace talks and is committed to Israel's destruction.
Since the Hamas takeover, the international community has welcomed Abbas' government, while pushing Hamas into deep isolation.
In the poll, 86 percent said they are worried about the state of affairs in Gaza, and 47 percent said they are thinking of emigrating. In comparison, 33 percent said they were considering emigration a month earlier.