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Israeli troops kill eight Palestinians, push into Gaza

GAZA, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli troops have killed at least eight Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip as Israeli ground forces crossed into the Palestinian enclave, local radio reported on Tuesday.

The radio reported that between 10-30 tanks and armored vehicles had pushed into Palestinian territory clashing with Palestinian gunmen. During the operation Israeli troops arrested locals suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.

Militants fired rocket propelled grenades at an Israeli tank, slightly wounding two servicemen.

An Israeli army spokesperson said it was just a routine operation aimed against the terrorist infrastructure.

Ahead of his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to "take advantage of this opportunity to conduct serious, continuous, ongoing negotiations in order to reach an historic breakthrough toward a new political reality."

The meeting is expected to provide a fresh impetus to negotiations on achieving a peace agreement based on a "two states for two peoples" formula by late 2008.

Israeli officials dismissed as "not serious" Palestinian threats to boycott Wednesday's meeting if Israel did not cancel a tender to build 307 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The recent one-day Middle East conference, which was attended by 44 nations on November 27 in Annapolis, produced a joint statement signed by Olmert and Abbas, including an agreement to broker a peace deal by the end of next year.

Olmert characterized the Annapolis process as "an opportunity with many uncertain components, many risks and many dangers." However, he said, "under no circumstances can we allow this uncertainty and the risks to decide, because there is also an opportunity."

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