"Despite this, IDF activity continued throughout the day and the cabinet ordered the army to continue to act against terrorist elements in Gaza", the official said. Gadi Eisenkot, the head of the Shin Bet and the head of the National Security Council met at the IDF Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the situation in the south.
It said the targets "included manufacturing facilities, training complexes and advanced weapons and capability sites" belonging to Hamas.
According to eyewitnesses, at least 12 successive explosions were heard as Israeli warplanes flew over Gaza City, hitting a popular cultural centre. "The continuation of calm in Gaza depends on the occupation's behavior".
"Factions of the resistance consider this round of escalation over as far as we are concerned, and the continuation of calm depends on the behavior of the occupation", the official said, using militant factions' term for Israel.
A number of Israeli homes, factories, schools and playgrounds were hit during the barrage.
Three Palestinians, including a mother and baby, have been killed and 11 Israelis have been injured in exchanges of rocket fire and airstrikes between Israel and Gaza. "We are closing in on operation in Gaza", the senior IDF official told Israeli media outlets, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hamas has denied it launched the rocket at Beersheba, blaming a militant Salafi group in the strip instead.
Over the past four months, 158 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 in the protests near the fence and others in Israeli air strikes and other incidents elsewhere in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group. Israeli television broadcast images of a house and cars damaged by the rockets in Sderot.
"We don't see the end of the escalation".
A senior military source said that he believes the attacks will continue and that if necessary Israeli villages and towns will be evacuated. "We are reinforcing the southern command and Gaza division".
Zikim beach was closed to the public and gatherings of over 300 people has also been prohibited as well as rail traffic between Ashkelon and Sderot has been halted. Farmers have been instructed not to work in their fields.
The UN, he said, has engaged with Egypt in an "unprecedented effort" to avoid serious conflict, but warned that "the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people".
The flare-up came after officials on both sides had talked about potential progress in an effort by the United Nations and Egypt to broker a truce to end months of violence and alleviate deepening humanitarian and economic hardship in the Gaza Strip. It remained unclear whether Israel would agree to the three-phased terms of the truce, especially in light of the latest escalation.
Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 70 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes.