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Israeli soldier killed in Gaza ground operation

JERUSALEM -- Israel on Friday announced its first casualty since the start of a ground operation in Gaza, with one soldier killed following a night of heavy fighting in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

The military said the soldier was killed in the northern Gaza Strip, but the circumstances behind his death were not immediately clear.

Israel intensified its 11-day campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers by launching a ground operation late Thursday after becoming increasingly exasperated with unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza on its cities, especially following Hamas' rejection of an Egyptian cease-fire plan earlier in the week.

Israel's chief military spokesman told Army Radio "there were a number of points of friction through the night" and said the military was investigating the circumstances behind the soldier's death.

In a statement, the military said it killed 14 militants in a number of exchanges of fire. It targeted rocket launchers, tunnels and more than 100 other targets.

The military said 50 rockets have been fired at Israel since the start of its ground operation, out of more than 1,500 since the fighting began last week.

Israeli aircraft have struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza. More than 250 Palestinians have died in the air campaign. An Israeli civilian was killed earlier this week.

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A hazy Gaza City is seeen in northern Gaza strip early Friday, July 18.

AP

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