Israel reopened the border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Friday, allowing tens of truckloads of humanitarian supplies into the impoverished area, reported local news service Ynet.
The move, which seems unusual as Israel normally keeps the border shut down as long as the barrage continues, is probably a tactical decision, said Ynet.
Israeli sources were cited as saying its objective is to allow some 1.5 million Palestinians in the coastal strip to lay in basic necessities and thus mitigate the humanitarian situation during the possible Israeli incursion.
Meanwhile, a convoy of Egyptian aid offered to the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip also entered the costal enclave on Friday, the official MENA news agency reported.
The first batch of the aid, which was provided by the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, crossed into Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing.
After the arrival of this batch of aid, including medical equipment, the remaining relief materials are expected to reach Gaza in the coming week, head of the society Mamdouh Gabr was quoted as saying.
Egypt has planned to send about 80 truckloads of food and fuel aid into Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing.
According to reports on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided to open the border crossings with Gaza on Friday morning for delivery of humanitarian aid.
Since November, Israel has tightened the siege of Gaza to pressure Hamas militants into stopping their rocket attacks on the Jewish state.
Over 20 mortar shells were fired overnight till Friday morning, adding to nearly a dozen rockets on Thursday, a day after some 70 rockets and mortar shells rained down on the Israeli side of the border and an retaliatory Israeli airstrike killed a Hamas gunman in southern Gaza.
In what seemed to be a last-ditch appeal before the widely speculated operation, Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday called directly on Gazans to stop Hamas, which he dubbed the common enemy of both Israelis and Gazans, from disturbing the life on both sides of the border.
The rare move came on the same day when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni brushed away a call for restraint by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, stressing in Cairo that Israel has run out of patience on Hamas and must act to protect its citizens.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is hot in launching a "limited operation" within days in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to end continuing barrage against Israel, local daily Ha'aretz reported Friday.
The cabinet has given the green light for the relatively small-scale move, which is expected to combine air strikes and ground maneuvers in order to inflict maximum damage to Hamas "assets," said the report.