Thousands of Palestinians are continuing to cross in and out of Egypt after Hamas defied Egyptian attempts to reseal the border on Friday and used bulldozers to smash through the barrier.

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According to the UN, at least 700,000 Gazans - nearly half the territory's population of 1.5 million - have crossed into Egypt to stock up on desperately needed supplies.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, said that while Israel had attempted to push Gazans into rising up against Hamas as a result of its blockade, the opposite had happened.

She said: "Hamas can claim credit now for breaking the embargo."

"Many believed their credibilty would crumble in the face of so much pressure, but the border opening and the fact that Gazans can break out of this prison, is now seen to be the work of the Hamas leadership."
 
She said: "Apart from the immediate humanitarian concerns, there is a major economic benefit to be gained from Egyptian traders, who are selling goods to the Gazans."

"There is a lot of things coming from Cairo, to Gaza, and this is also helping the Egyptian economy."
 
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has called the situation in Gaza "unacceptable" and called on Israel to "lift its siege" and "solve the problem".
 
Factional dispute
 
Although Hamas' breach of the Rafah crossing has been seen as a challenge to Egypt's authority, Mubarak on Saturday invited Hamas and its political rival Fatah to meet for talks in Cairo.
 
Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, said: "I and all the brothers in the Hamas leadership welcome participating and will seek to make the dialogue a success."
 
But Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Saturday stuck to his conditions for resuming talks with Hamas, saying the group should reverse its takeover of the Gaza Strip.

In a speech on Saturday, Abbas called the Hamas takeover of Gaza as a "crime" and said the group must reverse these steps if they want to resume talks with him.
 
Fatah controls only the West Bank after Hamas seized total control of the Gaza Strip in June last year.

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said that while Abbas welcome the invitation from Mubarak, he emphasised that the siege in Gaza is a Palestinian problem, and should remain so.

She said: "He [Abbas] was being diplomatic in his intentions to attend the Cairo talks, but he still insists that this issue will remain a Palestinone one, and is sticking by his demands that Hamas withdraw its control of Gaza." 
 
US pressure
 
The Egyptian government has been heavily criticed by the US for allowing the border to remain open and the US congress has suspended $100 million of aid to Cairo because of its failure to close the border.
 
Abbas demands Hamas disarmament in
order for dialogue to begin [AFP]
Violence erupted at the Rafah border on Friday after the Egyptian government announced it would be shutting the Rafah crossing.
 
Egyptian forces took up positions a few steps into Palestinian territory, using shields to protect themselves from some Gaza residents who threw stones at them.

The police responded with batons and water cannons. At least 22 people were injured, according to Mena, the state news agency

Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip last week saying the move was intended to counter cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian groups.

The closure of the territory led to dwindling supplies of food, fuel and other basic necessities.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies