Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given the green light to call in up to 30,000 reserve troops after rocket attacks on Tel Aviv from Gaza. Meanwhile, Egypt’s prime minister is set to visit Gaza in support of Hamas.
Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Kandil will visit the Gaza Strip on Friday in a display of solidarity with Hamas after a heavy exchange of rocket fire put the region on high alert.
Hundreds of rockets were launched by Palestinian militants at Israel on Thursday, killing three people. At least one rocket had been launched with Tel Aviv as its target, but the Israeli military has said no rockets hit the ground in the city.
In response, airstrikes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from Israel that began on Wednesday continued. At least 18 Palestinians have been killed since Israel's “Operation Pillar of Defense” began Wednesday.
Top Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari was the first target of the Israeli operation, which is the biggest military campaign waged by Israel in nearly four years.
"In the past 24 hours, Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate rocket and missile attacks on its civilians. I hope that Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza got the message," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address on Thursday. "If not, Israel is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people."
In a press conference Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas considers "talk of a truce at this time an attempt to provide more cover for the continuation of the escalation."
Allies of the Palestinians and the Israelis continued to weigh in on Thursday, with Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi saying he rejected Israel's "aggression," which he said could only lead to instability in the region.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, from the sidelines of an EU meeting in Paris on Thursday, expressing Germany's support for Israel's right to defend itself.
Westerwelle added that it is now necessary "to focus on de-escalation, and that things go forward in a careful and level-headed manner."
hc/ccp (Reuters, AFP, dpa)