French forces mounted an all-night aerial blitz today in an attempt to drive armed Islamists from the tiny Malian town of Diabali.
And a convoy of 50 lorries carrying French troops crossed into the country from Ivory Coast ahead of a possible ground attack.
French President Francois Hollande boasted that there were more to come.
"We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air," he said, adding that 750 soldiers were already in Mali.
Officials said the French force would grow to 2,500 troops backed by armoured vehicles.
But Mr Hollande admitted it would take a "good week" before soldiers from other west African states were all set.
Around 3,300 African soldiers are expected. Nigeria said nearly 600 would be arrive in the next 24 hours.
France launched its attack last week, pre-empting a United Nations military operation which had been expected to start in nine months.
However the Islamists have gained ground despite five days of French air attacks.
But Mr Hollande still sounded bullish. During a visit to Abu Dhabi he claimed that he was sure the French military operation would succeed.
"We are confident about the speed with which we will be able to stop the aggressors," he said.
"And with the help of the Africans being deployed, I think that in one more week we can restore Mali's territorial integrity."
But Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, taunted him: "I would advise France not to sing the victory song too quickly. They managed to leave Afghanistan. They will never leave Mali."
Islamist groups control an area in northern Mali larger than Afghanistan with terrain that is just as difficult.
The UN refugee agency warned that fighting was adding to the numbers of people who had already fled.
A spokesman said 1,230 refugees from Mali had arrived in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania after recent clashes.
More than 144,000 Malians fled to neighbouring countries in 2012, while nearly 200,000 people were displaced within the country.
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