"There is no talk about a truce now at all," Mahmud al-Zahhar, a top Hamas leader, said on Sunday.

"Our strategy is to liberate all Palestinian territory," he said, referring to the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

Hasan Yusuf, the top Hamas official in the West Bank, said on Friday the group could accept creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and a long-term truce with Israel, signalling a possible new overture to end hostilities.

Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Mahmud Abbas has been trying to persuade resistance groups to halt attacks against Israel to smooth the path of a presidential election on 9 January to succeed Yasir Arafat, who died last month.

Election fears

Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in bombings and attacks. Palestinian officials are worried further assaults could provoke Israeli retaliation and disrupt the presidential election, the first since 1996.

Al-Zahhar said that although Hamas would boycott the presidential vote, it would consider taking part in the Palestinian legislative election, scheduled for the spring.

"Our will to participate in the election is a national demand after the longstanding system of corruption affected the national goal, the internal integrity of the Palestinian people," he said.