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Hamas Says It Is Ready to Approve Talks With Israel

The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it is prepared to approve peace talks with Israel, as part of a new unity government with the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

But a Hamas spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, did not say the group is ready to recognize Israel's right to exist. He said the group will allow President Abbas to conduct peace negotiations with Israel.

On Monday, Palestinian officials said a coalition between Hamas and Fatah will be based on a document that implicitly recognizes the Jewish state.

As negotiations on a new government continue, an Israeli military court decided Tuesday to release 18 Hamas officials ahead of their trials. However, they will remain in detention two more days to allow the prosecution to appeal.

In the Gaza Strip, an Israeli soldier has been killed during a gunbattle with Palestinian militants.

The Israeli army says fighting erupted early Tuesday when Israeli troops operating just inside the Gaza border came under fire.

Two militant Palestinian factions, the armed wing of the governing Hamas movement and the Popular Resistance Committees, issued a joint statement claiming they killed the soldier in an ambush attack.

Israel arrested more than 40 members of Hamas, including Cabinet ministers, after the group's armed wing, with other militants, seized an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, in June. Israel also began an offensive in Gaza aimed at finding the soldier and stopping rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

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