Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a proposal by Hamas for a complete truce in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held by the Palestinian group. Hamas has indicated it will continue talks with mediators, but it is uncertain whether a deal can be reached.
Hamas has made a proposal for the release of hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israel in three 45-day stages.
Qatar-based satellite TV network Al Jazeera reported that the 135-day truce proposal says that talks about the requirements for a "complete truce" and a return to "a state of calm" must be agreed upon before the two sides move on in the negotiations.
But Netanyahu told reporters on Wednesday night that surrendering to Hamas' demands "will invite a major disaster."
He said he had instructed Israeli forces to prepare to operate in Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than 1 million Gaza residents are taking refuge. There are concerns that casualties will further increase.
Gaza's health authorities said on Wednesday that the total number of deaths since the fighting began last October had reached 27,708.
Hamas said on the same day that its delegation will visit Cairo to continue talks with Qatar and Egypt, which serve as mediators. But Israel and Hamas remain wide apart on the conditions for a truce.