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Hamas backers take to streets

Thousands of Hamas supporters have marched in Gaza to demonstrate against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who has accused Hamas of dividing the Palestinian territories.

Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to discuss ways of reviving the Middle East peace process in Egypt this weekend. 

The situation in Gaza has escalated since Hamas militants seized bases and government compounds from the Fatah party.

Hamas supporters gathered in northern Gaza, carrying Hamas flags and chanting anti-Abbas slogans.

Earlier, four Palestinian militants have been killed in the latest Israeli strike against Gaza and two more died in a shootout in the West Bank. Hamas responded to the attacks by firing rockets at the city of Sderot in southern Israel damaging buildings and cars.

Meanwhile, the Russian Emergencies Ministry plane with 73 Russians and 7 Belarus citizens on board is on its way to Moscow from Jordan's capital Amman. On Wednesday, these people were evacuated to Israel, and later to Jordan. They are expected to arrive in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport at 1800 local time (1400 GMT).

The conflict between Hamas and Fatah has forced many Palestinians to flee Gaza. The Erez Crossing on the Israeli-Gaza border is a crucial exit point from Gaza into Israel used by the Palestinians. Israeli authorities are reluctant to allow all of them inside Israel due to security concerns.