Since Saturday, three Israeli civilians and one soldier have also died in rocket attacks that have reached deeper into Israel than ever before, bringing more than a tenth of Israel's population of 7 million within rocket range.
The bombing campaign has worsened an already hard life for Gaza's mostly poor population of 1.5 million. On Thursday, hundreds of people stood in long, snaking lines across the territory waiting to buy bread.
Israel launched the offensive Saturday after more than a week of intense Palestinian rocket fire that followed the expiration of a six-month truce, which Hamas refused to extend because Israel kept up its blockade of Gaza.
So far, the campaign has been conducted largely from the air. But a military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich, said preparations for a ground operation were complete.
"The infantry, the artillery and other forces are ready. They're around the Gaza Strip, waiting for any calls to go inside," Leibovich said.
Thousands of soldiers waited along the border, resting among tanks, armored personnel carriers and howitzers. The troops watched warplanes and attack helicopters flying into Gaza, cheering each time they heard the explosion of an airstrike.
One soldier, who can be identified under military rules only as Sgt. Yaniv, said he was eager to go in. "I am going crazy here watching all this. I want to do my part as well," he said.
Hamas promised to put up a fight if Israeli land forces invaded.
"We are waiting for you to enter Gaza to kill you or make you into Schalits," the group said, referring to Israeli Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid by Hamas-affiliated militants 2 1/2 years ago and remains in captivity in Gaza.
Israel's bruising campaign has not deterred Hamas from assaulting Israel. According to the military, militants fired more than 30 rockets into southern Israel during the day.
No injuries were reported, but an eight-story apartment building in Ashdod, 23 miles from Gaza, was hit. Panicked residents ran through a debris-strewn street.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuffed a French proposal for a two-day suspension of hostilities to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies. Israel has been allowing trucked relief supplies to enter Gaza. Ninety aid trucks crossed the border Thursday.
Still, Olmert seemed to be looking for a diplomatic way out, telling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other world leaders that Israel would accept a truce only if international monitors took responsibility for enforcing it, government officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.
A Turkish truce proposal included a call for such monitors.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking to reporters during a visit to Paris for meetings with French officials, expressed skepticism about the benefits of a cease-fire. She said Hamas used the lull during the six-month truce that expired last month to build up its arsenal of weapons.
"Our experience from the past is that even when we accept something in order to have a peaceful period of time, they abuse it in order to get stronger and to attack Israel later on," Livni said.
Egypt's foreign minister said Hamas must ensure that rocket fire stops in any truce deal, and he criticized the Palestinian militants for giving Israel an "opportunity on a golden platter" to launch the offensive.
Gaza has been under Hamas rule since the group's fighters overran it in June 2007. The West Bank has remained under the control of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been negotiating peace with Israel for more than a year but has no influence over Hamas. Bringing in truce monitors would require cooperation between the fiercely antagonistic Palestinian factions.
An Abbas confidant said the Palestinian president supported the notion of international involvement. "We are asking for a cease-fire and an international presence to monitor Israel's commitment to it," Nabil Abu Rdeneh said.
World leaders have not been deterred by the initial rejections by Israel and Hamas of truce efforts, and next week French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans a whirlwind trip around the region.
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