Israeli Army chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, hinted that Israel would soon launch a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of cracking down on the Palestinian resistance infrastructure, mainly the Hamas group.

The Israeli army's threats come as the Arab countries re-endorsed yesterday in their summit in Riyadah, their Beirut-based peace initiative of 2002, which calls for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in return for normal relations with the Israeli state.

While the 2002 initiative was being announced, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, ordered his then defense minister, Shaol Mofaza, to launch a massive attack on the West Bank, with the same pretext.

Current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his deputy, Shimon Peres, the noble peace prize laureate, stressed an Israeli rejection of the said proposal before amendments. In their reaction to the Israeli threats, Palestinian resistance factions expressed readiness to defend the Gaza Strip, evacuated by Israel in 2005, in the face of Israeli troops.

Abu Obeida, spokesman of the Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the governing Hamas, believed that such Israeli threats are part of Israeli fears of a growing Hamas influence, following the ratification of a unity government with rival Fatah.

Israel declared a boycott of the new unity government and demanded that a government including Hamas is not accepted by Israel until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist, renounces violence and accepts past signed agreements with Israel.

On Wednesday, an Israeli drone plane killed a Palestinian and wounded three others in the northern Gaza strip city of Beit Lahia. Israeli artillery has recently reinforced presence on Gaza-Israel borders, as warplanes hover over different parts of the Gaza Strip. Israel has alleged that Palestinian resistance groups have stockpiled more advanced weaponry.