Early Friday, 85 missiles exploded within 45 minutes in Gaza City, sending black pillars of smoke towering above the coastal strip's largest city. The military said it was targeting underground rocket launching sites.
One missile hit the Interior Ministry, a symbol of Hamas power, and another hit an empty house belonging to a senior Hamas commander. Those strikes, together with an attack on a generator building near the home of Gaza's Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, signaled that Israel was expanding its offensive beyond military targets.
The fighting has already widened the instability gripping a region in the throes of war and regime upheavals. It has straining already frayed relations with Egypt, which was sending its prime minister to Gaza later Friday in a show of solidarity with its militant Hamas rulers.
Israel and Hamas had largely observed an informal truce since Israel's devastating incursion into Gaza four years ago, but rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes on militant operations didn't halt entirely. The latest flare-up exploded into major violence Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas' military chief, following up with a punishing air assault meant to cripple the militants' ability to terrorize Israel with rockets.
The Israeli military reported early Friday that its aircraft had struck more than 350 targets since the beginning of its operation against Hamas' rocket operations.
After nightfall Thursday, several explosions shook Gaza City several minutes apart, a sign the strikes were not letting up. The military said the targets were about 70 underground rocket-launching sites.
The two rockets that struck closest to Tel Aviv appear to have landed in the Mediterranean Sea, defense officials said, and another hit an open area on Tel Aviv's southern outskirts.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the army was hitting Hamas hard with what he called surgical strikes, and warned of a "significant widening" of the Gaza operation. Israel will "continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people," said Netanyahu, who is up for re-election in January.
At least 12 trucks were seen transporting tanks and armored personnel carriers toward Gaza late Thursday, and buses carrying soldiers headed toward the border area. Israeli TV stations said a Gaza operation was expected on Friday, though military officials said no decision had been made.
An Israeli ground offensive could be costly to both sides. In the last Gaza war, Israel devastated large areas of the territory, setting back Hamas' fighting capabilities but also paying the price of increasing diplomatic isolation because of a civilian death toll numbering in the hundreds.
The current round of fighting is reminiscent of the first days of that three-week offensive against Hamas. Israel also caught Hamas off guard then with a barrage of missile strikes and threatened to follow up with a ground offensive.
Much has changed since then.
At the same time, while relations with Israel have cooled since the toppling of longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi has not brought a radical change in Egypt's policy toward Israel. He has promised to abide by Egypt's 1979 peace deal with Israel and his government has continued contacts with Israel through its non-Brotherhood members.
The bible assures us that Israel will remain until Jesus returns to The Mount of Olives to set up His Kingdom. Praise God.
Zec 14:2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
Zec 14:3Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.