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An Israel Defense Forces officer was critically wounded Tuesday in Gaza, as Israeli ground troops battled Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighborhood.

Israel's push into the Tel Hawwa neighborhood was the furthest it has moved into Gaza City during an 18-day offensive against Hamas militants, bringing IDF ground forces within 1.5 kilometers of the crowded city center.

Second Lieutenant Aharon Karov, 22, was wounded by an explosion in a booby-trapped house, during which another soldier sustained moderate wounds. Karov was serving as the commanding officer of IDF paratroopers brigade at the time of the explosion.

Another five soldiers were lightly wounded during battles in Gaza on Tuesday. The soldiers were taken to hospital for treatment, and their families have been notified.

Slightly more than two weeks ago, Karov got leave from his Paratroop unit so he could attend his own wedding. Less than 48 hours after marrying Tzviya Mordechai of Kedumim he was called back to his unit, and on Monday night he was wounded.

Karov is the son of Rabbi Zeev Karov, who heads the yeshiva high school in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron and is a well-known figure in the religious Zionist community. He studied at the hesder yeshiva (which combines Torah study and military service) in the evacuated Gaza settlement of Netzarim, and was excited to be returning as a soldier, to an area he knew well.

The newly married couple had a difficult time separating after such a brief time as husband and wife, Karov's father said.

"But it was clear to them that there are times when you have to sacrifice for the sake of the State of Israel," he added. "The transition from joy to sadness in such a short time isn't easy, but that is apparently the complexity of our lives here. Aharon loved the mission imposed on him and carried it out without objecting for a moment, even when he was asked to put his personal life aside."

Meanwhile, Palestinian medical officials reported that at least 18 gunmen and three civilians were killed over the course of the fighting between Hamas and Israel on Monday. The army said troops had killed overnight about 30 gunmen in the coastal territory.