New Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has reportedly ordered the Israeli army to prepare plans for a major ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in order to destroy the Hamas forces that have assumed full military control of the area.
According to Britain's Sunday Times, Barak intends give the green light for the operation as soon as Hamas or its allied terror groups in Gaza resume their rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Israeli military sources cited in the report said the incursion will include some 20,000 troops, including two armored divisions and an infantry division, supported by Israel Air Force F-16s and combat drones.
Facing the Israelis will be about 12,000 Hamas fighters fresh off their stunning weekend victory over the numerically superior forces of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah-dominated paramilitary police.
In addition to boosting morale, Hamas' battlefield achievements have put the group in possession of a huge cache of American-supplied weapons transferred to Abbas' presidential guard over the past six months.
Barak will officially take over as defense minister on Monday after defeating his predecessor, Amir Peretz, in last week's Labor Party primary election. Barak is Israel's most highly decorated soldier and a former chief of staff.