IDF Spokesperson's Unit chief Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said Wednesday night that the military was "not taking any steps lightly" and warned Hamas against continuing its rocket attacks on Israel. "If there is no quiet – we will act."
Almoz said the IDF had thousands more targets it could strike in the Gaza Strip and that "everything is on the table." The brigadier general emphasized: "If we need to act, we will not hesitate."
The Israeli Air Force attacked 80 launching-pads in the Gaza Strip within an hour Wednesday night.
"The army is ready for all possibilities," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Wednesday after holding a meeting of his Security Cabinet as rockets continued to rain on Israel.
"Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens. The security of Israel's citizens comes first. The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Operation Protective Edge is set to expand, and similar comments were made by the IDF spokesperson, indicating the IDF was still mulling a ground operation in Gaza.
"We'll continue with strikes that will exact a very heavy price from Hamas. We are destroying arms, terror infrastructures, command systems, Hamas institutions, regime buildings, terrorists' houses, and killing terrorists of various ranks of command," the defense minister told Army Radio.
"We will continue to hit Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza Strip from the air, sea and ground to ensure the safety of Israel's citizens," he added.
The fighting stepped up as Egypt, which often serves as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, said it was in contact with both sides to end the violence. It was the first indication since the offensive was launched on Tuesday that cease-fire efforts might be under way.
In a statement, the Egyptian president's office said President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi received a call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday evening to review the latest developments.
Abbas, who has minimal influence in Gaza, has appealed to Israel to halt its offensive. "Egypt has made extensive contacts with all active and concerned parties to spare the Palestinian people the scourge of Israeli military operations," el-Sissi's office said. It did not elaborate.
It was not clear whether the contacts included formal efforts to reach a cease-fire, or whether Egypt was speaking to Hamas. The new Egyptian government has poor relations with Hamas.
However, leaders warned a ground invasion could be imminent.
"Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army," Yuval Steinitz, Israel's intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. "If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching."
IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz said the military "was preparing the next stage. This offensive will be a long one. Reservists are being called in to replace conscripted soldiers (holding the line). The moment they will be ready, the soldiers will go south to prepare."
Yaalon praised forces on the ground, saying thanks to "the commanders, the fighters and the support fighters in the air, sea and ground, who continue to act firmly and professionally to defend Israel's citizens."
"Even in these hours, the rocket attacks continue on Israel. Sirens were heard this morning in Gush Dan (in the coastal area), Rishon Letzion, Beit Dagan, Ashdod, Ashkelon and other cities around the country. The Iron Dome (missile defense system) intercepted at least six rockets," he added.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Dannon (Likud) demanded the Security Cabinet decide to cut Gaza from gas and electricity.
“Supplying electricity and fuel to Gaza Strip must be halted”, Dannon, “It’s inconceivable that while we are fight Hamas we'll supply them electricity and fuel used for firing rockets at us.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai urged the city's residents remain calm, saying the city will continue "business as usual." He further said that there was no need for panic, and that he trusted Tel Avivans to act responsibly.
Associated Press contributed to this report