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Israelis unwilling to free Palestinian murderers

Two-thirds of Israelis do not want to release jailed Palestinians “with blood on their hands” in a swap for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Tuesday’s Ma’ariv published a survey showing that 67 percent of the public would oppose the release of Palestinians imprisoned for killing Israelis, even if this were a condition for the return of Shalit from Gaza, where he was abducted by Hamas-led gunmen exactly 18 months ago.

Thirty-three percent of Israelis would agree to an amnesty for those Palestinians “with blood on their hands,” a category that has so far been excluded from any discussions of a possible prisoner swap.

Hamas demands the release of hundreds of prisoners, including top terrorists, as ransom for Shalit. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week appointed a top Cabinet committee to review the government’s criteria for which inmates may or may not be granted early release.

Asked whether the Olmert government should accept Hamas’ recent offer of a truce in the Gaza Strip, 59 percent of those polled by Ma’ariv said no and 36 percent said yes.

But opinion was more split on whether Olmert should order an invasion of Gaza to stop cross-border rocket fire, an operation that military experts believe would cost scores of troops’ lives. Forty-six percent of Israelis would support such a mission, the Ma’ariv poll found, while 45 percent would be opposed.

The survey had 400 respondents and a 4.9 percent margin of error.

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