Israel has bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with nearly 200 airstrikes, widening a blistering assault on Gaza rocket operations to include the prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.
The new attacks followed an unprecedented rocket strike aimed at the contested holy city of Jerusalem that raised the stakes in Israel's violent confrontation with Palestinian militants and extended the battlefield.
Israeli aircraft also kept pounding their original targets, the militants' weapons storage facilities and underground rocket launching sites. They also went after rocket squads more aggressively.
The military has called up thousands of reservists and massed troops, tanks and other armoured vehicles along the border with Gaza, signalling a ground invasion could be imminent.
Militants, undaunted by the heavy damage the Israeli attacks have inflicted, have unleashed some 500 rockets against the Jewish state, including new, longer-range weapons turned for the first time this week against Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv heartland.
Following those attacks, the military deployed an Iron Dome rocket defence battery in central Israel. The system, devised precisely to deflect the Gaza rocket threat, was deployed two months earlier than planned, the Defence Ministry said.
Ten people, including eight militants, were killed and dozens were wounded in the various attacks, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. In all, 40 Palestinians including 13 civilians and three Israeli civilians have been killed since the Israeli operation began.
The violence has widened the instability gripping the Middle East. At the same time, revolts against entrenched regional regimes have opened up new possibilities for Hamas. Islamists across the Middle East have been strengthened, bringing new-found recognition to Hamas, shunned by the international community because of its refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence.
A high-level Tunisian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem, drove that point home with a visit to Gaza. The foreign minister's first stop was the still-smouldering ruins of the three-storey office building of Gaza's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
"Israel has to understand that there is an international law and it has to respect the international law to stop the aggression against the Palestinian people," Mr Abdessalem said during a tour of Gaza's main hospital, Shifa.
www.idf.il/english/ (Israel Defence Forces)