Poll: Hamas popularity falls in both West Bank and Gaza
Fatah accuses Hamas of arresting dozens of its activists in the Gaza Strip as unity talks stall.
Discontent with Hamas over slow-moving Palestinian unity talks and Israel's ban on Gaza reconstruction aid have led to a sharp decline in the Islamist group's popularity, an opinion poll showed on Monday.
The survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC) put public support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at 18.8 percent, compared with 27.7 percent in its previous poll in January.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction is now more popular than Hamas with a 34.9 percent rating, up from 26 percent in January, according to the poll of 1,199 people.
Khader Khader, head of the media unit at the East Jerusalem-based JMCC, said Hamas' popularity was hit by discontent in the Gaza Strip, where the group rules, over a lack of movement in Egyptian-sponsored unity talks with Fatah and in reopening the territory's borders.
According to the poll, 26.5 percent of those surveyed blamed Israel for the deadlock in the Hamas-Fatah dialogue while 23.5 percent pointed a finger at Hamas and 15.5 percent said Fatah was responsible.
"It's a sort of protest by the people [of Gaza] because there is no progress on these two major issues," Khader said.
Israel has barred reconstruction material from entering the Gaza Strip since the Israel Defense Forces' 22-day offensive there in January, because it says the material could be used by Hamas to make weapons.
The poll also found that most Palestinians do not have high expectations of U.S. President Barack Obama, and think that he will not have an impact on negotiations with Israel.
More than 49 percent of the respondents said that Obama's policies would not impact the peace process, compared with 35.4 percent who believe that Obama's policies will improve the chances for peace.
Fatah accuses Hamas of arresting its activists in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group accused rival Hamas of arresting dozens of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip on Monday.
The recriminations threaten to derail the Egyptian-mediated efforts to reconcile the two Palestinian groups.
A Hamas spokesman said there had been no arrests and accused Fatah of distortion aimed at undermining the talks.
Senior Fatah lawmaker Ashraf Gomaa told Reuters by telephone from Gaza that at least 90 of those arrested on Monday had been identified, but that the Hamas sweeps were continuing.
"We urge the Egyptian leadership to take a stronger position towards these actions by Hamas, which create doubt among our people over the importance of, and the need for, these continued talks in Cairo," Gomaa said.
"These Fatah positions have only one aim, which is Fatah's desire to foil the dialogue," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters by phone from the Gaza Strip.
Gomaa's remarks came hours before a spokesman for Fatah's security forces in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway, announced that 100 Hamas members "who do not pose a threat to general security and the rule of law" would be released on Monday and Tuesday.
Sources close to the reconciliation talks in Cairo said the latest round on Sunday had stalled due to disagreements over a mechanism to end factional arrests. Both groups deny the arrests are politically motivated.
Hamas and Fatah delegations were scheduled on Monday to hold talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has spearheaded Egypt's efforts to heal the rift between Hamas and Fatah for nearly a year.