JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli leaders authorized the military Tuesday to call up 40,000 reservists for a possible assault on the Gaza Strip, the army said.
"Following a directive of the chief of staff the general staff... and the approval of the government, the Israel Defense Forces increased the draft of reserve forces," the military tweeted in English.
"The approval is currently limited to 40,000."
The move came during the most serious flare-up over Gaza since November 2012, as Israel launched dozens of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and militants fired rockets into southern Israel.
"We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard," chief military spokesman General Moti Almoz told army radio earlier, saying the operation would take place "in stages".
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned it was likely to be a protracted campaign.
"We are preparing for a campaign against Hamas, which will not end in just a few days," he said in a statement after meeting security chiefs, which defined the aim as being "to exact a very heavy price from Hamas".
"We will not tolerate rocket fire on Israel cities, and we are preparing to expand the operation with everything at our disposal to strike Hamas," he said.
Israel has killed 14 Palestinians and injured over 100 in the ongoing assault.Ma'an staff contributed to this report