Israeli soldiers prepare armored personnel c
Israeli soldiers prepare armored personnel cReuters

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Israel is ready to "significantly expand" its operation against terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza, but United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is pressing for a truce.

"The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place."

His remarks came as thousands of Israeli troops and hardware gathered along the border.

An AFP report indicated a turn in foreign media against Israel, stating that the military preparations were “fuelling concerns that the Jewish state was poised to expand its relentless aerial bombing campaign into a ground operation.”

The Israeli army sealed off the main roads around Gaza, and tens of thousands of soldiers were deployed, some of them to the Gaza front and others in less precarious positions in order to free regular troops for the Pillar of Defense mission.

Massive pressure for a truce is building up in international media, including those in the United States, where Americans are concerned that a land invasion to stop rocket fire on Israel will heat up regional tensions.

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon will visit the Gaza war region within days to push for a truce between Israel and Hamas as their conflict veers toward all-out war, officials said.

Ban reportedly will be in Jerusalem on Tuesday or Wednesday to try to secure a ceasefire similar to the one four years ago that ended the Operation Cast Lead counter terrorist campaign.

The 2009 truce, agreed to by the Olmert government and then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, was accompanied with what turned to be unfulfilled guarantees by the European Union and United States to place high-tech monitoring systems to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza from underground tunnels in Egypt.

The recent Hamas escalation that has spread missile attacks to Tel Aviv underlined the failure to stop weapons smuggling.

Ban has stated that rocket attacks on Israel are “unacceptable” but still calls for Israel to “exercise maximum restraint.”

Egypt is  trying to negotiate with Hamas for a truce, which so far calls on Israel to remove the maritime blockade that has prevented the free import of weapons by sea into Gaza.