Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza late yesterday on the 10th day of an offensive to stamp out rocket attacks from the Palestinian enclave, the army said.
"Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation, the Israel Defence Forces (army) has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip," it said in a statement.
The army said the aim of the operation is to protect Israeli lives and crush Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
"The IDF's objective as defined by the Israeli government is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continues indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas's terror infrastructure," the statement said.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 to stamp out rocket attacks from Gaza and the army said the new operation will include ground and air assaults.
"This stage of operation 'Protective Edge', led by the IDF's Southern Command, will include close coordination between IDF units including infantry, armoured corps, engineer corps, artillery, and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support," it said.
"This effort will also be supported by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and other intelligence organisations," the army added.
"In the face of Hamas' tactics to leverage civilian casualties in pursuit of its terrorist goals, the IDF will continue in its unprecedented efforts to limit civilian harm," it said.
At least 240 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes since July 8, many of them children, medics in Gaza said, with a NGO based in the coastal enclave saying 80 percent of the deaths are civilians.
Earlier, fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed in deadly earnest yesterday, after a brief humanitarian ceasefire allowed Gaza residents to restock and hunker down, and as efforts towards a lasting truce intensified.
With regional efforts to broker a lasting ceasefire gathering pace in Cairo, an Israeli official said the Jewish state had agreed a truce with Hamas to begin at 0300 GMT today.
However Hamas, the Islamist movement which is the main power in Gaza, denied any deal had been struck.
Meanwhile, the United States yesterday urged Israel to do more to protect civilians caught in the crossfire between the Jewish state and Hamas.
"We ask (Israel) to redouble their efforts to prevent civilian casualties. We believe there is more that can be done," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Cairo has once again become a diplomatic hub to end the fighting in Gaza after Egypt initially proposed a failed truce without consulting Hamas.
As part of the peace drive, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Egyptian capital yesterday but no details were immediately released of their discussions.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Jewish state of seeking a "systematic genocide" of the Palestinians.
Violence flared before and even during the temporary cessation, but resumed with a ferocity afterwards, with three hours of fresh air strikes on Gaza, including one which killed three children in the middle of Gaza City, Gaza's emergency services spokesman said.
Another strike shortly afterwards in the southern city of Khan Yunis killed four-year-old girl Rahaf al-Jubur, and a 29-year-old man, Hamza al-Abadleh.
The Rafah deaths came after another seven Palestinians were killed overnight.
In addition, 1,690 people had been injured during the conflict.
Since the latest violence began before dawn on July 8, at least 1,048 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, and another 282 have been shot down by the Iron Dome air defence system, army figures show.
In its air war aimed at halting the rocket fire, Israel has struck more than 1,750 "terror targets" across the coastal enclave, the army said.