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Exiled Hamas Political Leader Defends Firing Rockets into Israel

The exiled political leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas has defended the firing of Palestinian rockets into Israel.

In Cairo Saturday, Khaled Mashaal said Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. His comments come amid a shaky five-month-old ceasefire with Israel.

Earlier in the day, Israeli troops shot four armed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing three of them. Israel says the four were planting explosives along the border.

In Cairo Friday, Mashaal held rare talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of the Fatah movement. It was their first meeting since their rival parties formed a coalition government in March.

Fatah has called for the ceasefire with Israel to be maintained.

Mr. Abbas expressed optimism Saturday that Europe could possibly lift its embargo against the Palestinian government. He made the comment after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Western aid was cut to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power in 2006. The United States classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In forming the unity government earlier this year, Fatah and Hamas hoped to end the embargo and halt months of Palestinian factional fighting that killed more than 130 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.