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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
High death toll in Gaza clashes
Palestinians carry a body to a funeral in Gaza
Funerals for many of the dead were swiftly held in Gaza City
Israeli military attacks in the Gaza Strip have killed 23 Palestinians, including several children, witnesses and medical sources say.

At least 11 militants were among the dead, but many civilians were also killed, and about 70 people were hurt.

The raids come amid Israeli efforts to release a soldier captured by Palestinian militants last month.

About 140 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel launched its offensive.

The attacks on Gaza have been overshadowed by fierce clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Girls killed

Israeli air strikes began early on Wednesday and were backed by up to 30 tanks and other ground forces.

A military spokesman said the air force had targeted "armed gunmen" east of Gaza City as troops mounted a fresh incursion on the city's borders, the AFP news agency reported.

According to the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Gaza, the tanks stopped short of Gaza City and the refugee camp of Jabaliya.

In one strike, offices used by Hamas in Gaza City were also targeted. There were reports that several Hamas members died, plus at least one militant from the Popular Resistance Committees group.

Three girls, including one infant, were among the dead, Palestinians said.

As well as attempting to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israeli units operating in Gaza have been trying to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into Israel.

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