Hamas gains in popularity in Gaza, West Bank since war with Israel: poll

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Islamist Hamas movement that dominates Gaza has gained in popularity among all Palestinians since last year’s war with Israel, but most feel the devastation caused by the conflict outweighs its achievements, a new poll shows.

Pollster Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey also reported what he called “the highest number ever recorded” -- 50 percent -- of Palestinians in the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip considering emigration.

“There’s a very high level of frustration we are seeing in Gaza more than at any other time in the past year,” Shikaki told reporters by teleconference from the West Bank, referring to results of the June 4-6 survey.

Rebuilding has been slow in Gaza since the 2014 war, in which Palestinian militants launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs at Israel while Israeli air strikes and artillery battered Gaza, a small densely populated enclave. More than 2,100 Palestinians, mainly civilians, were killed while 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

When asked who they would support if a parliamentary election were to be held, 39 percent of those polled in Gaza said they would vote for Hamas, up from 32 percent a year ago.

In the West Bank, where the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas exercises self-rule alongside Israeli settlements in occupied territory, support for Hamas has risen to 32 percent from 27 percent three months ago. Fatah weighed in at 36 percent backing, down from 41 percent in March.

Shikaki said Hamas’s rising appeal in the West Bank could be attributed in part to frustration with a prolonged impasse in diplomacy between Abbas and Israel on a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.But 63 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were unhappy with the achievements of the Hamas-Israel war “compared to the human and material losses” Gaza suffered, the poll also showed.

Shikaki said Abbas, the president since succeeding the late Yasser Arafat in 2004, held a slight edge in personal popularity over Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza.

But Abbas’ performance rating had dipped to 44 percent from 50 percent at the outset of last year’s Fatah-Hamas unity deal, which has still not yet been fully implemented on the ground.

Hamas triumphed in the last Palestinian parliamentary election held in 2006. Fresh elections have been repeatedly postponed since Hamas’s seizure of power from Fatah in Gaza in a brief 2007 civil war.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Heinrich