Tuesday after midnight. Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian security guard and injured another after invading the Abu Ojain area near the Kissufim crossing in the southern city of Khan Younis.

Undercover troops, supported by military apaches helicopters, also arrested several residents, eyewitnesses reported.

Maan News Agency reported that the apaches fired several rounds of live ammunition at dozens of houses in the area and at a Palestinian Security Center before the undercover units exchanged fire with Palestinian security men stationed there.

The security guard killed was identified as Ziad Abu Maghaseeb, 20.

Israeli tanks also moved 25km into the Gaza Strip through the Kissufim Crossing while military apaches helicopters fired rounds of live ammunition.

The attack was carried out after the army received orders to intensify its operations in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers expanded their operation in the Gaza Strip shortly after midnight Tuesday after infantry units and tanks invaded the central Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel declared its “Summer Rains” offensive.

Local sources in the central Gaza town of Dir Al Balah reported that soldiers advanced about 150 meters into the area.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israel’s Defense Minister Amir Peretz made the decision Tuesday to intensify the offensive in Gaza.

Soldiers bulldozed and uprooted farmlands in Dir Al Balah and Khan Younis and ordered the Palestinian security forces to leave the area.