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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Hamas holds Gaza prayer rallies
Hamas prayer rally in former settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip
Hamas has claimed credit for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza
The Palestinian militant group Hamas has held prayer rallies in abandoned Jewish settlements in Gaza on the first Friday after Israel's withdrawal.

Thousands of Hamas supporters gathered in the wrecked settlements of Netzarim and Nissanit.

Hamas claims credit for forcing Israel out of the Gaza Strip.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians again overwhelmed Egyptian and Palestinian security forces to enter Egypt.

Egyptian and Palestinian police fired warning shots in the air in an effort control the crowds.

On Thursday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the chaos at the border had been brought under control.

Since Israel's pullout from the area on Monday, Palestinian and Egyptian security forces have failed to prevent thousands of Palestinians from streaming across the border from the Rafah refugee camp.

The mass crossings have raised questions as to whether Egypt can honour its deal with Israel and maintain security along the border.


For years, Hamas was the main group launching attacks on the Jewish settlements in Gaza and the soldiers who guarded them, and so these first Friday prayers were highly symbolic, says the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza.

Palestinians cross between Egyptian and Palestinian Rafah
Palestinian leaders are under pressure to secure the border

Large rallies were also held in Kfar Darom and Neve Dekalim.

In Netzarim, the group's supporters spread their prayer mats on one of the tree-lined avenues and settled down to hear one of their leaders speak. Further back, others perched on the rubble of what used to be the homes of Israeli families.

Off to one side, Hamas militants sat holding their weapons, their masks pulled down over their faces.

In Nissanit, senior Hamas official Nizar Rayan told supporters that the struggle against Israel would continue.

"The removal of the enemy from Gaza does not mean that we have reached our destination," the Associated Press reported him as saying.

"Our struggle continues and we will fight until the last occupier leaves our land," Mr Rayan added.

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