The Israeli military was drawing up plans to send troops into Gaza on Thursday as its military continued to exchange fire with Hamas fighters through the night, while in Israeli cities a fresh wave of riots led to 400 arrests.
The Israel Defence forces said it had deployed two infantry units and one armoured unit to the border with Gaza, and that a ground operations plan would be submitted to military chiefs later today, ahead of approval by the Israeli government.
Despite diplomatic efforts to ease the crisis, which US President Joe Biden said he hoped would end "sooner than later", hundreds of rockets flew across the Gaza Strip overnight.
James Cleverly, the UK Middle East minister, described the level of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel as "unprecedented," and called on all sides to "step back from the brink."
Air raid warnings went off across Israel, including for the first time in the country's north, though on Thursday an Israeli military spokesman said this had been a false alarm.
Israel's air force said it had launched multiple strikes, targeting what it described as locations linked to the "counterintelligence infrastructure" of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, as well as the house of Iyad Tayeb, one of the movement's commanders.
There were reports from Gaza on Thursday that Israel had struck a Hamas-controlled ministry of finance building as well as a Hamas-controlled bank.
In Gaza, 67 people have been killed so far, including 17 children, and nearly 400 injured after days of near relentless Israeli air strikes. In Israel, the casualty rate has risen to seven following the death of an Israeli soldier and a five-year-old boy who was killed by rocket fire.
On Wednesday, Hamas announced the death of its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying they had killed several other senior Hamas figures as well.
IDF strikes also destroyed a multi-storey tower housing Palestinian television channel Al-Aqsa, which was set up by Hamas.
There were 400 arrests across Israeli cities such as Acre, Haifa and Lod overnight in what the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, described as a "civil war" between Arab and Jewish residents.
Israeli TV footage showed Jewish rioters pulling an Arab man from his car and beating him severely, in what was described as a "lynching."
It comes the day after groups of Arab rioters torched cars, a school and a synagogue in Lod, while in Acre a Jewish-owned restaurant was set ablaze.