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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Israel helps Palestinian refugees evacuate to Egypt

TEL AVIV, June 21 (RIA Novosti) - Israel has assisted in the evacuation of at least 100 Palestinian refugees from violence-torn Gaza to Egypt via Israeli territory, an army spokesperson told RIA Novosti Thursday.

Hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Fatah loyalists desperate to flee from the Hamas-controlled enclave, have already spent several nights in a tunnel at the Erez checkpoint on the northern end of the Gaza Strip, blocked by Israeli troops.

"The decision [to allow the evacuation] was made by the [Israeli] political leadership in coordination with Egyptian authorities," the spokesperson said.

The refugees traveled south through Gaza to the Kerem-Shalom crossing point, where they were let into Israel, and then transported to Egypt.

Meanwhile, Israeli radio station Galei Tzahal said Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would meet Sunday at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The sides are set to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories following the violent takeover by radical Islamist group Hamas of Gaza last week, and the establishment of an emergency government by Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Last week's armed clashes between Hamas and pro-presidential Fatah left at least 100 people dead. President Abbas, who now controls only the West Bank, dismissed the Hamas-led government following the coup, and his new emergency cabinet led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has received the backing of most Western nations, and the more moderate Arab states.

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