An Israeli government spokesman has declined to confirm plans to launch a ground operation in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying merely that Israel's cabinet would decide the issue.
"I can't say anything about whether there will be a ground operation in Gaza. The Israeli cabinet will decide on that," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigar Palmor told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
For the last three days, Israeli warplanes have pounded the Gaza Strip as part of a major military offensive – dubbed "Operation Protective Edge" – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from Gaza.
At least 86 Gazans have been killed and hundreds injured – mostly civilians – since the operation began, according to Palestinian medical sources.
Gaza-based resistance factions, meanwhile, have continued to fire rockets into Israel – causing no casualties thus far – in response to the unrelenting airstrikes.
On Tuesday, Israel's security cabinet called up 40,000 army reservists in advance of a possible ground assault.
Palmor claimed that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas had refused third-party mediation aimed at hammering out a ceasefire agreement.
"It is understood that Hamas refused those efforts. As far as I know, there is no diplomatic initiation at the moment," Palmor told AA.
The recent military escalation follows the disappearance and death of three Jewish settlers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in a suspected "revenge" attack by Jewish extremists.
By Turgut Alp BoyrazAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.