Israeli forces crossed into the Gaza Strip early yesterday in a raid that captured a local Hamas militant leader and left his brother dead near a Gaza border town, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.
As the forces -- backed by tanks and helicopter gunships -- moved into the area of Abasan and took up positions on rooftops, militants began firing at them, sparking gun battles that wounded two militants, Palestinian officials said.
Hamas officials identified the captured man as Younis Abu Daka, a local Hamas leader and a lecturer at Islamic University in Gaza City. His brother, Yousef, was killed in the fighting, Hamas said.
The army confirmed that a senior Hamas operative was arrested, and at least one militant was killed. It did not identify the men.
Abu Daqqa family members are known as Hamas supporters, but Youssef was described by locals as a civilian, not a militant.
The violence came as Israel continued its offensive in the Gaza Strip, which commence on June 28, three days after Hamas-linked militants tunneled into Israel, attacked an Israeli army post and captured Corporal Gilad Shalit.
As part of its offensive over the past two months, Israel has detained dozens of top Hamas officials, including cabinet members and lawmakers in the occupied West Bank.
Hamas, which took power in the Palestinian territories after winning parliamentary elections in January, is dedicated to Israel's destruction.
Gaza, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, was occupied by Israeli troops until August last year, when soldiers and some 8,000 Jewish settlers pulled out after 38 years of occupation.
Israel said it would continue the current offensive until Shalit was released and militants ceased firing rockets into Israel.
The army has routinely carried out nighttime raids into Gaza since the offensive began.
Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians -- most of them militants -- since the offensive began two months ago. Palestinian officials fear that Israel, after battling Hezbollah guerrillas to a stalemate in Lebanon, will now turn its attention back to Gaza.
Late on Wednesday, an Israeli tank fired a shell at two men who approached Gaza's border fence with Israel near Abasan, according to Palestinian officials and the army.
An Islamic Jihad militant's body and a wounded group member were found near the area, ambulance crews said.
The army said soldiers identified two suspicious men crawling toward the border post, fired a tank shell at them and identified hitting them.
Also on Wednesday, a top Palestinian militant leader in the West Bank was shot in the head and seriously wounded, militants and hospital officials said. He was shot from a passing car in the town of Jenin overnight, residents said.
Hospital officials said Hossam Jaradat, the West Bank leader of Islamic Jihad's militant wing, was shot by Israeli soldiers in the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli army said it had no information on the report.