The FINANCIAL -- According to RIA Novosti, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on December 23 ruled out talks with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and vowed to continue army operations against militants.
Olmert spoke after Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on December 21 that Israel might consider the possibility of a long-term ceasefire with Hamas in exchange for an end to rocket attacks.
"Operations against terrorists will continue as they have been carried out for many months. What is happening can be described as a true war between the Israeli army and terror groups," Olmert told government ministers.
The Israeli military has intensified operations in the Gaza Strip recently, killing more than 20 Palestinian militants in the past week in retaliation for continuous rocket and shell attacks launched from the enclave.
Olmert said Israel could hold talks with Hamas, only when the militant group recognized Israel, renounced violence and complied with the Israeli-Palestinian accords reached earlier.
Islamic group Hamas seized control of Gaza from the pro-presidential Fatah movement in June after months of infighting. In September, Israel declared Gaza, with a population of 1.5 million, an "enemy entity."