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Israel plans to crush Hamas in the Gaza Strip within months, Ehud Olmert’s top deputy said.

Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said Monday that Israel’s military and diplomatic responses to Palestinian cross-border rocket attacks will spell the end of Hamas rule in Gaza.

“I believe a combination of steps against Hamas in Gaza will bring an end to the Hamas regime in Gaza,” Ramon told reporters. “They will not last. It will take a few months, maybe it will take a year.”

It was Jerusalem’s most direct threat yet against the Islamist group, whose political ascendancy over the past two years undermined Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel’s armed forces would intensify attacks against Gazan terrorists and prepare for a possible ground sweep of the coastal strip if rocket salvos persist.

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