Gaza City: Israeli air and ground forces are stepping up operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel's chief military spokesperson said on late Friday, amid reports of heavy bombing of the besieged enclave.
Internet and mobile phone services were cut off in the Palestinian territory, a local telecoms firm and the Red Cross said.
"In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza," Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised news briefing, raising expectations that the long-anticipated ground invasion of Gaza may be beginning.
He said the air force was conducting extensive strikes on tunnels and other infrastructure.
"In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight," he said.
"If (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu decides to enter Gaza tonight, the resistance is ready," said Ezzat al-Rishaq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, on social media platform Telegram. "The remains of his soldiers will be swallowed up by the land of Gaza."
read more on Israel-Hamas war
Internet, mobile services cut off
Palestinian mobile phone service provider Jawwal said that services including phone and internet had been cut by heavy bombardment.
A statement from the Palestine Red Crescent Society said it had completely lost contact with its operations room in Gaza and all its teams operating on the ground.
Israel has said has been preparing a ground invasion, but has been urged by the US and Arab countries to delay an operation that would multiply the number of civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip and might ignite a wider conflict.
'Salvos' of rockets fired
Hamas also said it had fired "salvos" of rockets at Israel after intense Israeli bombing of the Palestinian territory.
"Salvos of rockets in the direction of the occupied territories (Israel) in answer to the massacre of civilians," Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said on its Telegram channel.
The Hamas government's media office accused Israel of taking the measure "to perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea," as heavy strikes hit northern Gaza.
"We are beefing up the pressure on Hamas. We're increasing the pressure that they're under. Our military operations are underway," he told Fox News.
"They will continue to be on the receiving end of our military blows until we have dismantled their military machine and dissolve their political structure in Gaza. When this is over, Gaza will be very different," he said.
Administration officials have become highly concerned about the potential repercussions of a full ground assault, the officials said, and they increasingly doubt that it would achieve Israel's stated goal of eliminating Hamas. They also are concerned that it could derail negotiations to free nearly 200 hostages, particularly as diplomats think they have made "significant" advances in recent days to free a number of them, potentially including some Americans, one of the officials said.
The Biden administration also is worried that a ground invasion could result in numerous casualties among Palestinian civilians as well as Israeli soldiers, potentially triggering a dramatic escalation of hostilities in the region, the officials said. US officials think a targeted operation would be more conducive to hostage negotiations, less likely to interrupt humanitarian aid deliveries, less deadly for people on both sides, and less likely to provoke a wider war in the region, the officials said.