Israeli military sources reported on Saturday night that the Israeli military is preparing for a wide-scale military offensive in the Gaza Strip, similar to the 2002 ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in the West Bank.The sources stated that the internal clashes and waves of violence between Fateh and Hamas gunmen could escalate further and become liable to extend to ‘anti-Israeli attacks’.

The planned operation is not to take place directly, ‘but may become necessary’ if violence extends to attacks against Israel.

Leaders of the Israeli Army and the Shin Bet security services said that Hamas might resume suicide bombings in Israel or other kinds of attacks against Israeli targets in the Palestinian territories or in Israel.

The military and security leadership in Israel claims that the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, is accumulating large quantities of homemade shells with improved range and accuracy.

Israel believes that Hamas has increased its military capabilities since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer or 2005, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.

Also, Israeli military sources predict that the armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad obtained shells that can hit a target within a range of 15 to 16 kilometers.

As Israel prepares for the possible military offensive, the fragile ceasefire deal between Hamas and Fateh seems to be holding, but is not fully implemented.

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Saturday night that a Palestinian security officer was shot and killed by gunmen near a Palestinian security post, in the center of Gaza City. One member of Fateh was shot an injured in Khan Younis.

Dr. Muawiya Hassanen, head of the Emergency Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, reported that gunmen opened fire at a security patrol parked near the southern gate of a Palestinian security post seriously injuring one member of the security forces identified as Eyad Abu Al Kheir.

Abu Al Kheir died of his wounds at the Al Quds International hospital in Tal Al Hawa area, west of Gaza city. One P.A security officer was abducted as he was trying to transfer Abu Al Kheir to hospital, the Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported.

Abu Al Kheir is the first casualty since the declaration of the fragile ceasefire deal between Hamas and Fateh on Saturday evening.

In a separate attack, unknown gunmen fired at a Fateh member in Khan Younis city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Local sources reported that gunmen stopped the car of Ziad Abu Shatat, 39, forced him out and shot him in his right leg.

At least 26 Palestinians have been killed and about 250 others wounded since last Thursday, when clashes broke out between Hamas’ executive force which is under the command of the interior ministry, and the Presidential 17 Force in central Gaza Strip.