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JERUSALEM, Dec. 23- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday rejected a proposed cease-fire with Hamas’ in the Gaza Strip, saying that the government would not talk with the Islamist group until it recognizes Israel, local media reported.     During a weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said that “The State of Israel has no interest in negotiating with entities that do not recognize the (international) Quartet demands,” adding Israeli army’s clash with Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Holy War) militants in Gaza are nothing short of a war.

    “We cannot describe it any other way… we will keep fighting terror while doing our best to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Olmert.

    “Our security forces have for months conducted numerous operations in the Gaza Strip, in order to reduce to a minimum the Qassam rocket fire, which has plagued the residents of the South, and in order to target those responsible for the Qassam fire,” the prime minister said.

    He asserted that Israel’s military operations against the Palestinian militants will continue.

    Five Palestinian militants were killed and four wounded last Thursday in an Israeli army ground forces incursion into central Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics said. Over 20 Palestinian gunmen have been killed in the past week as Israel stepped up its operations in Gaza to curb the incessant rocket attacks.

    The international Quartet of Middle East negotiators, including the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia, have demanded that Hamas recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

    An adviser to Gaza’s Hamas leaders said recently that they were prepared to reach a truce with Israel if it stops its military campaign against Gaza militants and opens crossings into the impoverished, isolated territory. However, Israel’s official position remains that it will not talk to Hamas unless the group renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.


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