Israeli officials suggested the end might be close to its offensive despite its rejection of a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.
"The decision of the (UN) Security Council doesn't give us much leeway," Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told public radio.
"Thus it would seem that we are close to ending the ground operation and ending the operation altogether."
Earlier, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel was nearing the goals it had set for its operation, but that fighting would continue for now.
"Israel is approaching these goals, but more patience and determination are required," Olmert told a cabinet meeting.
Israel has "dealt Hamas an unprecedented blow," government secretary Oved Yehezkel quoted him as telling ministers. "It will never be the same Hamas."
Israeli forces have demolished some 200 smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border -- Hamas's main resupply route -- representing two-thirds of the total, military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said.
My question is: If the reports are true, and Hamas has nearly 20,000 fighters in Gaza, how on earth is Israel near the end of its ground assault?
The invasion could also spark a bloody, prolonged war pitting Israeli soldiers against Hamas fighters in winding streets, alleys and apartment hallways. Hamas is believed to have about 20,000 armed fighters and has been preparing for an Israeli invasion.
My math says 20,000 minus the reported 450 militants killed equals 19,550 Hamas fighters still ready to roll.
And if it took 18 days to kill 450 Hamas fighters, how long will it take to kill the other 19,000?