JERUSALEM – Israel on Tuesday launched its largest offensive in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years, carrying out a blistering aerial assault on scores of targets and killing 25 people in what officials called an open-ended operation aimed at ending weeks of heavy rocket fire. As Gazamilitants unleashed salvos on cities including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel mobilized forces along the border for a possible ground invasion.

The offensive set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since an eight-day battle in November 2012. The militants fired about 160 rockets at Israel, including a strike that reached the northern city of Hadera for the first time, while Israel said it attacked more than 150 sites across GazaOn Tuesday evening, Israeli forces were able to prevent an attack by armed Palestinians who crossed from Gaza into Israel. Five militants were killed in the incident.

The government approved call-up of up to 40,000 reserve soldiers in preparation for further escalation, after the security cabinet decided on Monday to intensify attacks against Hamas. Israel says it wishes to refrain from a large-scale military operation, but also that it will do everything needed to protect its citizens.

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