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Why Hamas is even more popular after the Gaza war

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TEL AVIV – A month and a half after the end of the war in Gaza, Hamas is gaining in popularity.

According to a survey released this week, public support for Hamas jumped to 33 percent compared with 28 percent before the war, while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh closed a 10 percentage point gap with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a leading Palestinian pollster.

Mr. Abbas's sagging fortunes are considered among the main factors behind the decision to hold talks in Cario that started this week aimed at healing the 21-month rift with Hamas.

The Islamists also seek a compromise because they're aware that the bump in sympathy could dissipate if the $4.48 billion in reconstruction funds for Gaza is held up due to internal wrangling, says Khalil Shikaki, who runs the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

"Hamas gains additional standing because it was seen as the victim,'' he says. "On the other hand, Hamas is worried. The continued misery in Gaza will continue to hurt Hamas as well. Both Hamas and Abbas will feel a need to reach some sort of accommodation."

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