Jerusalem - Israel was set Friday to hand over the bodies of 23 Palestinians killed during recent attacks on Israelis, the army said, in an apparent bid to ease tensions.

"Today, in accordance with the instructions from the government, the army is planning to return the bodies of 23 Palestinian assailants who attacked Israeli civilians and members of security forces in the last months," a military spokeswoman told AFP. Palestinian medical sources in Hebron said 17 bodies to be buried in the area had already been received. Six others were to be handed over in the northern West Bank.

Since a wave of violence erupted at the start of October, 138 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, according to an AFP count, most while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

Twenty Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have also been killed in the unrest.

Israel does not always immediately return the bodies of slain attackers.

The military spokeswoman said that after Friday's handovers the army would have returned a total of 76 bodies and was still holding two. Police could also be holding more bodies, she said, from attacks in Israel and east Jerusalem. Palestinian sources said the Israelis were still holding a total of 17 bodies.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian wounded in early December during clashes with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank has died of his injuries, the Palestinian health ministry said on Friday. Shadi Ghabish died overnight at his home near the Jalazon refugee camp from complications after undergoing two operations at a Ramallah hospital to remove bullets from his body, the ministry said.

The 38-year-old was wounded on December 8 during clashes between Israeli soldiers and a group of youths from the Jalazon camp, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El.

His death brings to 138 the number of Palestinians killed since a wave of violence erupted at the start of October, according to an AFP count. Twenty Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have also been killed in the unrest. The majority of the Palestinians were killed while carrying attacks on Israelis.

According to the United Nations 170 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed since the start of the year until December 28 in attacks and clashes.