UPDATE 1-Israeli soldiers wounded in clash with Gaza gunmen

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Friday, 7 January 2011 18:41 GMT

(Updates, adds background)

GAZA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - At least four Israeli soldiers were wounded in a clash with Palestinian militants close to the Gaza Strip border on Friday, Israeli news reports said.

Residents of the Gaza Strip said they saw a number of gunmen approach the border, adding that they heard shooting and the sound of missiles being launched into Israel. There were no initial reports of casualties on the Palestinian side.

Gaza residents also reported the sound of gunfire from Israeli helicopter gunships overhead but their targets were not immediately known.

The Israeli army was checking the reports.

It was the latest in a number of recent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians in a nearby area along the border as they attempted to cross into Israel, a military spokesman said.

Violence has escalated in recent weeks along the frontier, though both Israel and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers say they are working to avoid a full-on confrontation. (Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ori Lewis, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jason Neely)

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