Mob attacks pollsters who found few Palestinians want their old homes in what is now Israel

A mob of about 100 Palestinian refugees stormed the office of a Ramallah polling organisation yesterday to stop it publishing a survey showing that five times as many refugees would prefer to settle permanently in a Palestinian state than return to their old homes in what is now Israel.

The protesters pelted Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, with eggs, smashed computers and assaulted the nine staff members on duty. A female worker was treated in hospital for her injuries. "This is a message for everyone not to tamper with our rights," one of the rioters said.

Dr Shikaki, a leading West Bank political scientist, was undeterred. He said he was still putting the survey results on the centre's website and seeking the widest possible exposure. "These people," he said, "had no idea what the results were. They were sold disinformation."

The poll, conducted among 4,500 refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan, was the first to ask where they would want to live if Israel recognised a right of return.

Only 10 per cent of the refugees chose Israel, even if they were allowed to live there with Palestinian citizenship; 54 per cent opted for the Palestinian state; 17 per cent for Jordan or Lebanon, and 2 per cent for other countries. Another 13 per cent rejected all these options, preferring to sit it out and wait for Israel to disappear, while 2 per cent didn't know.

The future of more than three million refugees is critical to any lasting peace. It was one of the unresolved issues that caused the July 2000 Camp David summit to break down.

¿ The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned yesterday they would end a truce announced last month if the Palestinian Authority continued to try to disarm them.

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