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Defiant Hamas leader calls for opening of Gaza borders

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is calling for the opening of Gaza’s borders and the end of a more than seven-year-long blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the Palestinian strip.

Striking a defiant tone, he said Wednesday that Gaza is fighting an occupying force and that the Palestinians are ‘‘the true owners of the land.’’

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Mashaal says Hamas cannot abandon its terms in a cease-fire agreement, and can accept a humanitarian truce that is supported by a genuine relief program for the besieged Gaza Strip.

Mashaal spoke from exile to reporters in Doha, Qatar.

Israeli troops battled Hamas militants on Wednesday near a southern Gaza Strip town as the top U.S. diplomat reported progress in efforts to end fighting that has so far killed more than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

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