JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel stepped up its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip today, pummeling scores of targets and killing at least 14 people as Israeli leaders signaled a weeks-long ground invasion could be quickly approaching.
The military said it struck about 200 Hamas targets on the second day of its offensive, which it says is needed to end incessant rocket attacks out of Gaza. Militants, however, continued to fire rocket salvos deep into Israeli territory, and Israel mobilized thousands of forces along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground operation.
"The army is ready for all possibilities," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after holding a meeting of his Security Cabinet. "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."
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.
The offensive has set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since an eight-day battle in November 2012. Israel says its aim is to quash Hamas' militant capabilities and to quell rocket fire.
Israeli leaders warned a ground invasion could be imminent.