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Two Palestinians were killed yesterday in Israel Defense Forces operations in the southern Gaza Strip.

One of the dead is a senior figure in Hamas believed to have been involved in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and the other was a civilian resident of Khan Yunis.

Also yesterday, at least 12 Qassam rockets were fired against Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. A number of civilians were treated for panic.

At approximately 10 A.M. an air force aircraft fired a number of missiles at a group of Hamas militants near the Shabura refugee camp in Rafah.

The target of the attack was Nafez Mansour, 40, described by the Shin Bet as a key figure in the Hamas military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam.

According to the Shin Bet, Mansour played an important role in the Hamas attack that led to Shalit's abduction in June 2006. He was also involved in the attack at the Kerem Shalom crossing in Pesach two weeks ago, in which Hamas used explosives-laden jeeps.

Security sources said that Mansour had been busy planning another major attack in the near future, probably a showcase operation that Hamas would like to carry out during Independence Day. The same sources said that there have been a number of intelligence warnings of pending attacks.

Hamas said yesterday that Mansour was in charge of a Qassam-producing unit in the Rafah area.

During the air force attack against Mansour, his 13-year old son was also injured.

In a separate incident yesterday, a 55-year old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu-Daka, was killed by IDF fire in the area of Khan Yunis.

The civilian was probably hit by IDF fire directed at a group of gunmen.

In the rocket attacks against Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip, one Qassam rocket exploded on a sidewalk near a school. A number of civilians were treated for anxiety, and there was minor damage to several shops in the area.