Israel on Tuesday rejected worldwide appeals for a truce as its air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip went on for a fourth day.
The operation, dubbed Cast Lead, continued early Tuesday, with at least 10 people killed and 40 others wounded when Israeli war planes bombed a series of Gaza targets, according to Palestinian reports.
The death toll on the Palestinian side has so far risen to more than 380 killed and more than 1,600 others have been injured in the ongoing air strikes.
Despite Israel's devastating air assaults, Hamas militants continued to fight back, pelting Israeli territory with rockets and mortar shells.
The United Nations and many countries repeatedly urged Israel to stop the bloodshed but Israeli officials rejected any truce with Hamas, warning that the country was ready for "long weeks of action."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would continue military action in Gaza "until all the goals are met."
The IDF operation would intensify "as much as needed to meet the goals we set for ourselves, to bring quiet to the South," Israel Army Radio quoted Barak as saying.
The operation also aims "to strike a severe blow to Hamas," he said, "in order to bring about an end to firing and other operations against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers."
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the military operation is so far "the first phase in a series of steps approved by the cabinet."
Olmert made the remarks while meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres to brief him on the most recent developments in the operation.
Peres said Hamas is the party responsible for creating the current situation in the Gaza Strip.
"Israel is not fighting against the Palestinian population, only against the terror organization that has etched on its flag the continuation of violence and the undermining of regional stability," he said.
"There isn't a person in the world who understands what the goals of Hamas are and why they continue to fire rockets. The firing defies reason and logic and it doesn't stand a chance," Peres added.
With Israeli forces gearing up for a possible ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the military has "made preparations for long weeks of action."
"We are ready for a prolonged conflict and for weeks of combat," Vilnai said in broadcast remarks.
After a meeting overnight Monday with IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and other leaders of the security establishment, Olmert stressed that Israel would strike Hamas with an "iron fist" but would treat Gaza civilians with "kid gloves" in its humanitarian effort, local daily Jerusalem Post reported.
During the meeting, security officials said the IDF had given telephone warnings to about 90,000 people living near Hamas facilities targeted by the Israeli air force. They stressed that the sites were bombed only after civilians had left their homes.
Israel let about 100 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies from Jordan, Turkey and international aid groups into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, said the report, adding that five new ambulances donated by Turkey were allowed into the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Israel launched massive air raids against the Gaza Strip on Saturday, while Hamas shelled Israeli territory after a six-month ceasefire that ended Dec. 19.