Teens' deaths sparked new violence
Tensions in the region reached a fever pitch after three Israeli teens, including one dual U.S. citizen, on their way home from school in the West Bank were kidnapped last month. Israel blames Hamas. Their bodies were found last week.
Later in the week, a Palestinian teen was abducted and then found dead within an hour in Jerusalem. Israel has arrested suspects and says there's "strong indication" it was a revenge killing. Amid clashes in the days following, the Palestinian teen's American cousin, who was visiting, was beaten by men in Israeli security uniforms.
Israel also announced a confession in the May killing of another Israeli Jewish teen. The suspect is an Arab resident of northern Israel, and police believe the attack was fueled by Palestinian "nationalism."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was criticized by Palestinians when he condemned the Israeli teens' kidnappings, called on Israel on Tuesday to immediately stop its strikes, warning the operation would drag the region into instability.
Abbas said a truce was needed to "spare the innocent from mass destruction."
And presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah accused Israel of carrying out an "open massacre" against children, women and the elderly, WAFA reported. He said Israel is making a "decision to expand the war," which he said will drag "the region into a spiral of bloody violence" that "will burn everyone."
Israel says the aim of its offensive is to strike Hamas in Gaza and stop rocket fire into Israel that threatens civilians. Hamas is estimated to have 10,000 rockets of varying ranges, Lerner said, including some that can reach as far north as Tel Aviv and beyond.
Israel confirmed that a rocket hit the city of Hadera, which is some 62 miles (100 kilometers) from Gaza.
"They have substantial armaments which can strike the soft underbelly of Israel," Lerner said.
He said the Israel Defense Forces' position had changed from focusing on de-escalation to preparing for a deterioration of the situation.
'Red lines' crossed
The conflict between the two sides has worsened in the past few days.
"The enemy has crossed the red lines and will be made to pay the price for its crimes," Mushir Al-Masri, a Hamas leadership figure and member of the Palestinian parliament, wrote on his Facebook page Monday. "The blood of our martyrs is precious ... and is fuel for the intifada and the resistance."
After that statement, the barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel increased, with Hamas claiming responsibility.
The conflict is creating strains within the governing coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, said in a news conference Monday that he told Netanyahu of his intention to dissolve his party's joint faction with Netanyahu's Likud party, saying it was "not working."
Lieberman criticized Netanyahu's handling of Gaza.
Tensions are also increasing between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.