EFEJerusalem

Israeli Defense Forces early Friday morning continued its intensive bombardment of the Gaza Strip and threatened to carry out a ground offensive in the enclave as international mediators tried to prevent another devastating war.

The IDF overnight began heavy bombardment of the Strip from the ground and air, a clear escalation of the violence that began five days ago.

"IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip," the military said on the largest offensive launched since Monday, which as of Thursday has killed at least 103 people in Gaza and eight in Israel.

"I said we would charge a very heavy price from Hamas," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Gaza’s ruling group, which launched more than 1,700 rockets towards Israel on Monday, most of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

Israel’s Thursday afternoon shelling killed at least nine children, bringing the number of minors killed in the overcrowded coastal enclave blockaded by Israel to 27.

The IDF has bombed hundreds of militant targets in the strip in these past days and carried out targeted attacks that it says have killed more than 30 members of the Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"We do this and we will continue to do so with great intensity. The last word was not said and this operation will continue as long as necessary," Netanyahu warned in a video broadcast on his social networks while the bombings were taking place.