Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was prepared to widen its Gaza offensive significantly.
“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he told his cabinet, in broadcast remarks.
He gave no specifics and made no mention of the possibility of a ground offensive.
Netanyahu said he was holding ongoing talks with world leaders, “and we appreciate their understanding of Israel’s right to self defense.”
“The operation in the Gaza Strip is continuing, and we are preparing to expand it,” he said.
His remarks came as thousands of Israeli troops backed by armor massed along the border, fuelling fears that the Jewish state is poised to expand its relentless aerial bombing campaign into a ground operation.
Netanyahu praised the “swift and impressive” response of reservists, 16,000 of whom have already been called up for duty in emergency orders.
“The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place,” he said at the cabinet meeting.
The Israeli army sealed off the main roads around Gaza late on Friday and shortly afterwards, the cabinet authorized the recruitment of up to 75,000 reservists, prompting a flurry of diplomatic efforts to broker a truce to head off any escalation.