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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel: No Contact Until Hamas Gives Up Terror

JERUSALEM -- Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday ruled out contacts with a Hamas-led Palestinian government until the Islamic group renounces violence, and Israel's defense minister threatened to "liquidate" Hamas militants involved in attacks.

With the latest comments, Israel showed no signs of backing down from the tough line it has taken since Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections last week. A final count of votes showed Hamas winning 74 seats and the Fatah Party getting 45, election officials said Saturday.

Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, is expected to lead the next Palestinian government, hurting the chances for a peace deal. However, a Hamas-backed Palestinian lawmaker said he believed the group was flexible enough to reach an understanding with Israel.

Also Sunday, about 7,000 Israeli security forces, anticipating violent resistance, were training to dismantle two small West Bank settler outposts later this week, police said. Resistance is expected to be fierce in Amona and among Israeli squatters who took over an abandoned market in the Palestinian city of Hebron.

Olmert, at a Cabinet meeting, said he had received international support for the Israeli position toward Hamas.

"We clarified that without a clear abandonment of the path of terror, a recognition of Israel's right to exist in security and peace, ... Israel won't have any contact with the Palestinians," Olmert said. "These principles are accepted by the international community. On this issue, I don't intend to make any compromises."

Later Sunday, Olmert consulted with his top security advisers. Ahead of the meeting, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel was prepared to resume its deadly airstrikes on Hamas targets.

"Those who head terror organizations and continue to engage in terror against the state of Israel will be liquitated," Mofaz told Channel 2 television on Saturday night. "Hamas knows better .... what Israel's powers and capabilities are in fighting terror."

Mofaz said the coming weeks would be a "transition period" for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah Party was routed in the vote and who must find a way to work with Hamas.

Hamas' supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, on Saturday said the group would not disarm, but suggested it could fold the thousands of fighters into a Palestinian army. "We are ready to unify the weapons of Palestinian factions, with Palestinian consensus, and form an army like any independent state," he said.

Hamas is likely to come under heavy pressure to moderate its positions and to reach out to Fatah.

On Saturday, thousands of angry Fatah supporters led by gunmen firing in the air marched in West Bank towns, calling for the resignation of their leaders and threatening to kill Fatah politicians who would join a Hamas government.

 Russia's top Middle East diplomat urged Hamas on Friday to refrain from violence and respect Israel, saying that Moscow would work with the group only if it supported a peaceful resolution, Itar-Tass reported.