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Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Voices: Israel and West Bank

On the third day of Israeli military action in Gaza, two Palestinians in the West Bank and two Israelis give their reaction to what's happening.

SHAWQI ISSA, 46, BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK

Shawqi Issa

I believe what's happening is a war crime. Three hundred people dead in three days, it's unbelievable, unprecedented!

Israel doesn't care about any reaction. Nothing will happen to them, everybody is silent.

I believe the whole problem is about the occupation and while this continues, the trouble will never stop.

The issue right now should not be about Hamas or Fatah, it's about the crimes against civilians. The Palestinians are one people and to continue the split between Gaza and the West Bank gives Israel the chance to hurt us. Agreeing on early elections in Gaza and the West Bank might be the first step.

Israel is preventing peace, it's against Zionist ideology. After Hamas agreed to the unity government [with Fatah in early 2006] they said openly they would agree to stop attacking Israel if it returned to its pre-1967 borders.

But now we have the wall, and settlements expanding to kill all possibility of the two-state solution.

Israel is working to its original programme of expelling or displacing Palestinians from the land. Palestinians know this and live it every day, both in Gaza and here in the West Bank.

ELI HERSHKOVITZ, BEERSHEVA, ISRAEL
Eli Hershkovitz

I have deep sympathy with people in the Gaza Strip, I want this to stop. But the bottom line is the Palestinians still don't recognise Israel's right to exist.

Hamas targets civilians and the Israeli army is targeting the military regime. Gaza is highly populated and it is terrible if children are killed. I am a paediatrician and I used to treat children from Gaza.

I regret Gazans' choice in electing Hamas, but that was their right. An Islamic government only becomes a mutual problem if it doesn't accept us.

I don't want a ground invasion, but if they keep shelling us, what can you do? This doesn't affect who I will vote for. I am still deciding between the [left of centre] liberal and Meretz parties. I don't want Binyamin Netanyahu to get in.

The time of unilateral retreat has gone, but on condition of peace, I am ready for a two-state solution and evacuation of all settlements on the West Bank.

Including places like Maale Adumim? Well, that is considered part of greater Jerusalem... maybe some land swaps could be done.

IMAD, RAMALLAH
Map

This is mass murder, it's really horrible, this collective punishment. And again we hear the silence of the whole world.

I think there is more of this to come across the territories. Israel's goal is to make life impossible for Palestinians. This is not a state, it's a sort of enclave with separate cities.

There is still occupation in Ramallah, less direct, but it's here. The Israeli army basically controls everything: checkpoints, the wall, daily arrests, daily killings. Yesterday a man was killed in a village near Ramallah, protesting against the wall.

The future is not clear for Gaza. I am definitely against the political split. But Hamas is part of the picture, whether we agree with them or not.

Hamas is playing a game, I think it knows it can't destroy Israel. After [exiled Hamas leader] Khaled Meshaal met Jimmy Carter in Damascus this year, they showed they were willing to negotiate with Israel.

I don't see this attack as just against Hamas, it's against the ideology of resistance. Politically we agree with Hamas, all of our society is against occupation, but socially I don't agree with them.

One thing we can agree on: our land is definitely getting smaller.

BARUCH SIMAN TOV, RISHON LE ZION, ISRAEL
Baruch Siman Tov

Is it a proportionate response? That's a hard question and not the right one. All the targets Israel chose are military. From the pictures you can see that most of the people who got hit are Hamas.

Hamas didn't provide pictures when they seized Gaza Strip [in 2007], they didn't have pictures of people being thrown from rooftops or butchered during the takeover. I don't think the coverage was quite the same.

I do feel sorry for the civilian casualties. Hamas, like other terrorist organisations, hide behind them.

Politically I'm not sure Israel is ready for a ground invasion, not after the disaster of the Lebanon war. Nor strategically; Hamas has spent the last six months building underground tunnels, so it will be difficult to fight them on their own territory.

I'm going to vote for an ultra-right party in the elections, further right than Likud. The people of Israel should vote for a party who thinks only of Israel, we are fed up of trying to suit the American or European agenda.

We gave everything - OK not everything - but quite a lot and got nothing in return. I approved of leaving Gaza but instead of peace they fired rockets.

I no longer believe in the two-state solution, but I don't know what the alternative is. Every time we give an inch, they see it as a weakness.



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