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Israeli Opposition Leader Vows to Crush Hamas if Elected


Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush Hamas if he is elected prime minister in next week's elections.

Mr. Netanyahu is a former prime minister and the frontrunner in the race to replace Israeli leader Ehud Olmert.

The opposition Likud Party leader on Tuesday criticized the war strategy of his political rivals. He says his rivals ended the war on the Gaza Strip prematurely, and that Israel should have destroyed the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The three-week offensive left parts of Gaza in ruins and led to the deaths of 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

With just seven days left until the election, the outcome of the war has become a central issue in the campaign.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the ruling Kadima Party is second in the polls. She has pledged to continue striking Hamas if necessary.

Israel and Hamas stopped major combat two weeks ago, but sporadic attacks continue.

Witnesses say Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas smuggling tunnels on Tuesday, after a rocket was fired from Gaza at the Israeli town of Ashkelon. Israel reported no injuries.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any attacks since the fighting stopped. It is urging all Palestinian factions to "respect the national consensus" on the cease-fire.

A Hamas delegation met with Egyptian mediators on Tuesday in Cairo and said the group was ready to commit to a truce with Israel for at least a year, in exchange for the full opening of Gaza's borders.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other Mideast Arab nations met in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to express their support for Egypt's efforts to broker peace. The United Arab Emirates' foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah, said the group wanted to ensure through unity that "non-Arab parties" do not interfere in its affairs" - an apparent reference to Iran.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.




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