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A Hamas operative was killed in an IAF air strike in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza late Monday night, according to Palestinian sources, while several others were wounded, they said.
The Hamas man, Ismail al-Masri, 19, was a member of the Izzadin al-Kassam, the group's military wing.
A short while later, IAF aircraft hit a building at the Islamic University in Gaza city early Tuesday, Palestinians said. Black smoke rose from the building, set on fire in the attack. No one was hurt.
The military had no comment. The university is considered a Hamas stronghold. The building, where the Hamas-dominated student council meets, was heavily damaged.
Earlier Monday the IDF stepped up its offensive on against Hamas terror infrastructure and sent ground forces into the northern Gaza Strip and troops into the terror group's charity offices in the West Bank in moves aimed at escalating the pressure on the kidnappers of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Senior officers said the military operations to rescue Shalit would continue as planned despite an ultimatum issued Monday morning by Palestinian terror groups behind the abduction of the soldier last week. On Monday, two Palestinian gunmen were killed in separate incidents in northern Gaza.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel would not tolerate kidnappings and would not allow any harm to come to Shalit. He said Israel would continue to allow moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority to try to diplomatically solve the crisis.
[For Jerusalem Online video coverage of the day's events click here.]
"We will know how to reach everyone involved in the kidnapping and everyone who is responsible for his [Shalit's] fate," Peretz said. "The Hamas terrorist headquarters operating out of Syria, headed by Khaled Mashaal, is the main address that is responsible."
Peretz also issued a veiled threat to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday, warning that he would hold him personally responsible if Shalit was harmed.
Last week, four Israeli F-16s buzzed Assad's summer residence in Latakia, to try to pressure him to persuade Mashaal to release Shalit. A Peretz adviser said the defense minister did not intend to threaten Assad's life, but to send him a "positive message" that he should take action.
Senior defense officials backed up Peretz's threat to Assad, hinting at the possibility that additional military steps, similar to the IAF flyover of his palace, would be taken.
"The common theme of all of the military action is to keep up the pressure on all those involved in the kidnapping, including Hamas and Assad," one defense official said.
In response, Assad reiterated his country's staunch support for the Palestinians in the face of the IDF offensive in Gaza.
Early Monday, after days of preparation, several tanks, bulldozers and armored personnel carriers carrying troops from the Givati Brigade crossed into northern Gaza and took up positions on the outskirts of Beit Hanun. While the IDF released an official statement claiming that the incursion was a "pinpointed" mission aimed at uncovering terror tunnels and explosive devices in the area, senior officers said it was possible the troops would remain in place for a longer period and would be joined by additional forces.
IDF combat engineers near Beit Hanun shot and killed one of two Palestinian gunmen who had opened fire on the military force. Later in the day, the IAF fired missiles at a terror cell in northern Gaza that was on its way to fire anti-tank rockets at IDF troops stationed nearby. One of the operatives was killed.
Before dawn Monday, IDF troops stormed Dawa charity offices in Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem and seized documents connected to the Hamas-affiliated organizations. The Dawa charities, IDF officers said, were fronts for the transfer of funds to Hamas terror activity.
Also Monday, missiles struck a building in Gaza City that the IDF said was used by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. The building, officers said, was used as headquarters for planning terror activities. A warehouse in the northern Gaza village of Beit Lahiya used to store weaponry, including Kassam rockets, was also attacked. Three Palestinians were wounded. The warehouse, according to the IDF, also belonged to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
Late Sunday night, IDF troops shot and killed three Hamas terrorists after they were seen crawling towards military forces while carrying explosive belts, which they allegedly planned to use in a suicide attack against the soldiers.
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