Israel’s military has been developing plans for a major offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The General Staff has renewed plans for a permanent presence in the southern Gaza Strip in an effort to halt arms smuggling to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Military sources said the options included the capture of the Egypt-Gaza border and the neighboring town of Rafah, said to contain up to 100 weapons tunnels that reach the neighboring Sinai Peninsula.

Over the weekend, about 1,000 Israeli soldiers were sent to capture the 14-kilometer Egypt-Gaza border. In September 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

“The current situation is extremely dangerous with Hamas ordering advanced systems that were used by Hizbullah in the war,” a military source said. “We’re not stopping the smuggling of these systems from Egypt.”

Officials said Egypt has failed to reduce arms smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip. They said the recent Egyptian announcements of weapons seizures were meant to respond to Israeli and U.S. concerns over the lack of border security.

“The situation in Gaza is worsening and requires extremely precise and decisive reaction from Israel,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yitzhak Herzog said.

On Sunday, the Cabinet discussed Israeli military options for the Gaza Strip. A special session on the issue was expected on October 25.

“The objective would be to prevent Hamas from replicating what happened with Hizbullah in Lebanon,” former Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Yom-Tov Samia said. “This would have to take place in the coming days or weeks.”

Officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not decided on a long-term military operation in the Gaza Strip. They said Olmert, under U.S. urging,has ruled out a significant Israeli military presence in the strip.

“Action must be taken without hesitation,” Trade Minister Eli Yishai said. “Any hesitation is dangerous and we must act immediately. When we leftthe Philadelphi corridor [Egypt-Gaza border], I said that abandoning it is a doorway to hell. We might have to find a way to take over the Philadelphi route.”

Officials said Hamas has received advanced Russian-origin anti-tank, anti-aircraft missiles and explosives over the last few weeks. They said Hamas plans to use the Iranian-supplied weapons to develop an army similar to that of Hizbullah in Lebanon.

“The advanced explosives were said to have been placed into Kassam-class,short-range missiles fired into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. Officials said these explosives increased the power of the Kassam’s warhead in nearly daily strikes on such Israeli cities as Ashkelon and Sderot. Over the last day, at least five Kassam missiles were fired into Israel.

“Gaza is a problem,” Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan said. “I think we must seize the Philadelphi route. Other than that, I think we should treat the Gaza Strip on a case-by-case basis and not take over the Gaza Strip again. We should seek for the Egyptians to cooperate with us on both sides of the border. If this does not happen, we should think twice whether to stay or not in the Philadelphi route.”