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Hamas leader killed in Israeli helicopter strike

Civilian, another militant also die in Gaza City attack

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli Apache helicopter fired two rockets at a motorcycle in Gaza City Saturday, killing a civilian and two Hamas militants, one of them a senior leader of the military wing of the group, according to Palestinian sources.

Seven other civilians were wounded in the attack that killed Wael Nassar, head of Izzedine al Qassam, Hamas' military wing. His assistant and a bystander also died in the strike.

Nassar was a former bodyguard for Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli missile strike in March.

Israeli media said the Hamas leaders were in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood when they were killed.

"Israeli security forces this evening targeted a motorcycle carrying two senior members of the Hamas group who were involved in many attacks, including suicide bombings, that caused the deaths of Israeli civilians and soldiers. The two were in the midst of planning an attack," said an Israeli military spokesman.

The dead were identified as Nassar, Mahmoud Sarsur, his assistant; and Mahdi Mahdi.

The Israelis said Sarsur had been involved in recruiting terrorists, and used his home to store caches of Qassam rockets, used against Israel.

The U.S. State Department designates Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group, a terrorist organization. The group's military wing has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and attacks against the Israeli military.

Israeli officer killed

The strike in Gaza followed a Palestinian attack Saturday morning against an Israeli army patrol in a refugee camp in the West Bank in which an Israeli officer was killed.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the army force was conducting house searches in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.

As the patrol left a building, Palestinians fired on them, shooting Capt. Shachar Ben Ishay, who died on his way to the hospital, the IDF statement said.

Elsewhere Saturday morning, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian militant near the Erez crossing separating Israel from northern Gaza, Israeli and Palestinian sources said.

Three suspicious figures were spotted near the fence just south of the border crossing, according to Israeli military sources. One of them touched the fence, prompting Israeli forces to fire at them, the sources said.

Two of the suspects fled and the body of the third was found in the morning along with two explosive devices, each weighing about 80 pounds (30-40 kg) the sources said.

Palestinian security sources identified the dead man as a member of the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine. The Palestinian sources said he was "on a mission" but did not elaborate. The U.S. State Department designates the PFLP a terrorist organization.

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