BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli security officials told Ma'an on Tuesday that residents of the Gaza Strip should avoid leaving their homes and that they risk being attacked if they go outside.
The warning was the first such communication since Israel started a deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday with the assassination of a senior Hamas military leader.
It also raised fears that Israel was considering a ground operation in Gaza after days of hundreds of airstrikes killed 117 Palestinians and destroyed critical infrastructure.
In Jerusalem, nine senior Israelis held a meeting after midnight Tuesday to discuss the future of the Gaza operation, a radio report quoted by Israel's Haaretz newspaper said.
A day earlier a senior official close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a ground invasion but preferred a diplomatic solution.
"We would prefer to see a diplomatic solution that would guarantee the peace for Israel's population in the south. If that is possible, then a ground operation would no longer be required," the official said.
"But if diplomacy fails, we may well have no alternative but to send in ground forces."