Israeli commandos shot and killed the head of the military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Monday. At least two other Palestinians were killed and a house demolished during the Israeli offensive against the militant Islamic group.
Witnesses say Israeli undercover troops ambushed the car of Riyad Abu Zeid, a Hamas fugitive, near a Palestinian refugee camp. The Israeli soldiers then reportedly tried to pull him out of the vehicle, and only opened fire after Mr. Abu Zeid pulled out a weapon.
The Hamas activist was seriously wounded and later died on the operating table in the hospital. The Israeli army said that their intention had been to capture, not kill, him.
Mr. Abu Zeid was generally considered the replacement for Hamas military leader, Salah Shehadeh, who was killed by Israeli troops in July last year.
Hamas has branded Monday's shooting an assassination. The Israeli action came two days after a Hamas attack on an Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip that killed four soldiers.
Also on Monday, Israeli tanks entered Gaza City and blew up the house of a Hamas activist wanted by Israel.
During the five-hour incursion in Gaza, Palestinian gunmen attacked Israeli soldiers who returned fire, killing at least two people.
On Sunday, six Hamas activists were killed in an explosion in Gaza City. Hamas said that the six were killed when a small pilotless plane they had been testing blew up. They blamed Israel for blowing up the plane.
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that it had been suspected for some time that Hamas had plans to use a pilot-less plane, or drone, to carry out a bombing attack.