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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 11:38 GMT
Two Palestinians killed in Gaza
Israeli tank convoy in southern Gaza
Israel has led dozens of incursions into Gaza in recent weeks
Israeli forces have killed two Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Israeli and Palestinian officials say.

The two men, members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, died in a clash with Israeli troops in the south near Khan Younis.

The Israeli army said its troops were on an operation in the area to destroy "terrorist infrastructure".

This comes as Hamas officials are in Cairo to hold talks on a prisoner swap with Israel over a captured soldier.

The two men killed were brothers Mohammed and Shadi al-Najar, according to Palestinian officials.

Three other Palestinians were wounded in the fighting, which took place in the village of Khouza.

Soldiers fired on armed men who appeared to be planting a bomb, Israeli military officials said.

Cairo talks

Israeli forces have made regular incursions into Gaza since late June, following the capture of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

An Israeli tank in southern Gaza on 18 October 2006
Israeli-Palestinian violence has increased in recent weeks

Corporal Gilad Shalit was captured on 25 June after militants led an attack into Israel. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Monday for talks with Egyptian officials on a possible prisoner exchange in return for his release.

The delegation, led by Hamas' representative in Damascus, Imad al-Alami, is expected to meet Egyptian intelligence officials.

Egypt has been acting as a mediator since Cpl Shalit's capture.

Palestinian officials indicated some progress had been made on an exchange, but reports suggested differences remained over timing, numbers and the identity of the prisoners.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday that no exchange would take place while Cpl Shalit remained in captivity.

"I can't release prisoners so long as Gilad Shalit is captured," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

Israel intensified its military campaign in Gaza following Cpl Shalit's capture, and the strip has been cut off from the outside world for long periods of time.

Since the end of June 2006, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli army operations in Gaza and the West Bank, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.




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