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Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 14:41 UK

Israel soldiers die in Gaza clash

Fighting has been taking place in Gaza

Three Israeli soldiers have been killed and three injured in heavy clashes in the Gaza Strip.

Four Hamas militants were also killed in the fighting.

The clashes took place near the Nahal Oz border terminal, east of Gaza City, when troops backed by helicopters entered Gaza.

The terminal was the scene of fighting last week in which two Israelis died when Hamas militants launched an attack on the facility.

After those clashes Israel cut fuel supplies going through the terminal to the Gaza Strip.

The latest fighting comes on the same day fuel shipments are due to be resumed.

'Ambush'

An Israeli military spokeswoman said: "Three soldiers were killed and three were wounded in an exchange of fire with armed gunmen who approached the security fence south of Nahal Oz."

GAZA: ISRAELI MILITARY TOLL

2008
16 Apr: Three soldiers shot dead in clashes
9 Apr: Soldier shot dead
6 Mar: Soldier killed by explosive device
1 Mar: Two soldiers killed in clashes

2007
27 Oct: Soldier shot dead
17 Oct: Soldier shot dead
12 Jul: Soldier shot dead

2006
1 Nov: Soldier shot dead
12 Sept: Reservist killed
25 Jun: Two soldiers killed in raid by militants


Spokesmen for Hamas' military wing say the clashes were part of a "sophisticated ambush".

The group promised that Israel would pay what it called "a high price" for further incursions into Gaza.

The Israeli military says its incursion into Gaza targeted Palestinian militants who carry out cross-border rocket attacks.

Palestinian medics said two Palestinian civilians were injured when their house was hit by a tank shell. The Israeli army did not immediately comment.

Egypt has been trying to broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, but without success.

On Tuesday Palestinian officials said that Israeli forces crossing into Gaza had destroyed a large area of agricultural land, knocking down olive and fruit trees.

The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said there would be what he called a big explosion if the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip was not lifted.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since overrunning the forces of the Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in June last year.




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