Top Israel military officer approves war continuation plans for Gaza

The Israeli military says its top officer has approved plans for continuation of the war in the Gaza Strip. The move is believed to be part of preparations for a ground offensive into the southern city of Rafah.

The military said on Sunday that Israel Defense Forces Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, had endorsed the plans.

Rafah is currently home to about 1.2 million people, including evacuees from other parts of Gaza.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz told a local TV station that the government would suspend the operation if it reached a deal with Hamas.

Israel and Hamas have been engaged in indirect negotiations on a pause in the fighting and the release of hostages held in Gaza. The talks have been brokered by countries, such as Egypt.

Media outlets in the Middle East report that a Hamas delegation will visit Egypt as early as Monday to discuss a new proposal from Israel. They broke the news by quoting Hamas sources on Sunday.

US news website Axios reports that the proposal marks the first time that Israel has suggested its leaders are open to discussing an end to the conflict in Gaza as part of a hostage deal. Hamas has consistently been demanding a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military on Saturday released a video it says shows construction work on a project to bring food and other relief supplies into Gaza via an offshore pier.

Washington announced on Thursday that US military vessels had begun to build the initial stages of the temporary pier and causeway at sea.

The Israeli military stresses that it is working with other entities, including the US Central Command, on the project. The military adds that it has been doing everything it can to increase the amount of humanitarian assistance to be carried into Gaza.

The World Food Programme estimates that 70 percent of the residents in northern Gaza are experiencing catastrophic hunger.