Israeli Poll Shows Opposition to Airstrikes

Most Israelis oppose the latest round of airborne strikes against Palestinian militants, according to a poll published Friday in an Israeli newspaper.

The survey in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper found that 58 percent of Israelis believe that Israel should temporarily halt the killing of militants to give the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas (search), time to establish himself in his position.

Under the requirements of a U.S.-backed peace plan, Abbas must rein in militant groups, but so far he's been unable to broker a cease-fire with the Islamic Hamas (search), which has been responsible for most of the suicide bombings that have killed 368 people over the last 32 months of fighting.

Last Friday, Hamas called off truce talks with Abbas. This week Israel launched four airborne raids against Hamas members.

The strikes have prompted calls for revenge from Hamas supporters. The group dispatched a bomber who blew up a bus in Jerusalem Wednesday, killing himself and 17 other people.

Nine percent of those questioned in the poll said they wanted the military strikes to stop altogether and 30 percent said they should continue.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said this week that he would fight militants "to the bitter end." Israel says it has no choice but to strike at militant leaders. The attacks often kill civilian bystanders and Palestinians criticize them as crude assassinations.

The poll also showed that 67 percent of Israelis agree with recent statements by Sharon that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian areas. Sharon made the remarks ahead of the launch of a U.S.-backed Mideast peace plan that envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

The survey, conducted by the Mina Tzemah/Dahaf (search) polling company, questioned a representative sample of 501 Israelis this week and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.