Israeli shelling
 
Local residents said that Israeli tanks also fired several shells towards the Palestinians.

More than two dozen Palestinians, nearly all of them fighters, have died in Israeli strikes in Gaza in the last two weeks.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, vowed on Tuesday to keep targeting fighters in the territory, after authorising the army to attack structures across Gaza, including manned Hamas positions.

Barak also warned that the military would eventually launch a widescale offensive inside Gaza with the aim of halting the daily firing of rockets and mortars from the territory into Israel.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has been under increasing pressure to launch a vast military operation inside the coastal strip, but said in an interview last week that he would take his time in deciding how to deal with the territory.