JERUSALEM, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Israeli army forces are " prepared for a ground operation" into the Gaza Strip, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday during his visit to an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the greater Tel Aviv area.
"We don't necessarily have any certainty on the need to carry out an attack, but we won't hold back for long in carrying it out, but rather sooner than later if events demand it," Barak said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz told soldiers massed near Gaza on Sunday that " fighting in built-up areas is a challenge," hinting at the possible onset of an incursion into the coastal enclave, Army radio reported.
The army said its aircraft on Sunday targeted what it described as "50 terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip, including under- ground rocket launching sites" and tunnels, inflicting what it said was "severe damage on militants' rocket launching capabilities."
The Air Force also hit Hamas' communication antenna and infrastructure atop two buildings in the northern Gaza Strip, an IDF spokesman told Xinhua in a statement, stressing that reporters housed within the two buildings were explicitly not the targets of their bombing.
On Sunday afternoon, Israeli aircraft killed Yahyia Byya, who officials said headed Hamas' rocket program and was responsible for much of the fire into Israel.
In a cabinet statement sent to Xinhua, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The IDF has attacked over 1,000 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and it is continuing its operations as we speak. It is achieving significant hits on weapons aimed at Israeli citizens, as well as on those who use these weapons and those who dispatch them."
Speaking at the weekly session, Netanyahu said Israel was " exacting a heavy price from Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and the IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations."
Netanyahu lauded what he said was "the rapid and impressive mobilization of the reservists who have come from all over the country and turned out for the mission at hand. Reservist and conscript soldiers are ready for any order they might receive."