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Second day of violence may trigger Israel-Hamas escalation

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The latest in a series of Israeli airstrikes left at least 20 Palestinians dead Thursday, as Israel considers a new invasion of Gaza to confront Hamas over militants' rocket attacks in Israeli territory.

Reuters reports that Israeli air strikes in Gaza Thursday killed at least 11 militants believed to be involved in rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities, as well as several civilians, including several children.

The Red Cross and European Union called for restraint as the two-day death toll rose to 33. These included one Israeli, whose death on Wednesday was the first such killing since May, four Palestinian boys who medics said were playing soccer on Thursday, and a baby killed in the bombing of a Hamas ministry.
Dozens more people were wounded in the crowded territory and explosions and gunfire continued well after nightfall.
The bloodiest exchanges in months came days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the region hoping to invigorate limping peace negotiations between Israel and the anti-Hamas Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.

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