"Israeli planes and troops on the ground are carrying out an attack in the Gaza Strip", the army said in a brief message.
At least 119 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed and more than 830 wounded since hostilities flared on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the continued fighting with the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip "will take time" to end. He did not elaborate on the specific goal of the assault.
IDF Military Intelligence rejects this allegation, saying that it had warned the political echelon of the threat of an attack by Hamas almost a month ahead of time, in mid-April, when significant clashes broke out regularly between residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli forces and amid the Palestinian Authority's decision to indefinitely postpone Palestinian elections that were planned for May. They would need the support of an Arab party, whose leader has said he can not negotiate while Israel is fighting in Gaza.
Over the past weeks, forced evictions and mob violence have left citizens of Palestine with few options amid an global outcry over Israel's blatantly illegal actions.
In Gaza, AFP photographers said people were evacuating their homes in the northeastern part of the enclave ahead of possible Israeli attacks, with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, warning of a "heavy response" to a possible ground incursion.
Israel's intensifying air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip came as USA members of Congress took to the floor of the House of Representatives to voice solidarity with the Palestinian people as they face both the immediate threat of airstrikes and the constant dehumanization inflicted by an apartheid regime.
Footage appeared to show dozens of rockets raining down on the Palestinian enclave, however, the Israeli army later clarified that its troops had not entered the Gaza Strip as it had earlier stated, blaming an "internal communication" problem for the confusion.
Palestinians grabbed their children and belongings and fled neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Gaza City on Friday as Israel unleashed a heavy barrage of artillery fire and airstrikes, killing a family of 6 in their home.
Gaza's hospitals are already struggling with the local COVID-19 epidemic, which spread without the wide-scale vaccination campaign seen in Israel.
Boris Johnson calls summit as Scotland renews independence referendum call
Johnson in an interview with The Daily Telegraph indicated that he would not agree to a referendum even if the SNP won a majority. The British government says that Scotland needs its permission to hold another referendum - and Johnson has rejected the idea.
The statement said Austin "strongly condemned the launching of rockets by Hamas and other terrorist groups that targeted Israeli civilians" and "reiterated the importance of all involved parties to take steps to restore calm".
Israel's missile defences have intercepted 90 percent of the rockets.
Amid the rocket fire, Israel's civil aviation authority said it had diverted all incoming passenger flights headed for Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport to Ramon airport in the south.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and condemned the rocket attacks, the Elysee Palace said on Thursday. It fired its most powerful rocket, the Ayyash, almost 200 kilometers into southern Israel.
The tensions have spilled over into the West Bank, where bloody street fights have broken out in several Arab-Jewish cities.
The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem.
The military escalation was triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The latest wave of violent clashes between Israel and the Palestinians, the worst since 2014, was mainly sparked by an Israeli plan to evict some Palestinian families from a neighborhood in the disputed East Jerusalem.
The fighting deepened a political crisis that has sent Israel careening through four inconclusive elections in just two years.
On the other hand, election results in March, which allocated more seats to the Israeli far-right party Jewish Power, also makes the coalition with Jewish ultranationalists the only feasible option if he wants to form a majority government.