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Palestinian rockets and Israeli air strikes claim casualties

Tensions are high around Gaza today after Israeli air raids killed four militants. Palestinian armed groups fired 68 rockets at southern Israel, seriously wounding two people.

In the biggest surge in cross-border violence since June, the latest escalation began on Tuesday evening, shortly after the end of a high-profile visit to Gaza by the Emir of Qatar.

Israel immediately carried out twin air strikes over northern Gaza, killing two Hamas militants and injured another seven people, medics said, sparking more rocket fire in response.

Another Israeli raid early on Wednesday killed a third militant and injured another near the southern city of Rafah, medics said.

During the morning, Gaza's health ministry also said another militant who had been seriously wounded in the late-night air strikes had died of his injuries.

Updated figures from the Israeli military issued around midday showed 68 rockets had been fired at Israel since midnight, leaving six people injured, two seriously.

Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, issued a statement claiming responsibility for that attack, jointly with the Popular Resistance Committees.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is visiting Israel today to hold talks with leaders in Jerusalem and will then head to Ramallah to meet Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad.

On Tuesday she visited crisis-hit Lebanon and expressed serious fears about the country's stability in the wake of last week's car bomb, which killed eight people.

hc/rg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)