Israel launches operation in Rafah amid ceasefire talks

Israel says it has begun what it calls a "precise counterterrorism operation" in eastern Rafah.

It says Israeli troops have taken control of the Gazan side of the crossing into Egypt. It comes as talks for a proposed ceasefire with Hamas are at a critical moment.

On Monday, Hamas said its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that the group had approved of the agreement regarding the ceasefire.

The UN Secretary-General has called on Israel and Hamas to agree on a truce and hostage-release deal.

Antonio Guterres said, "This is an opportunity that cannot be missed and a ground invasion in Rafah would be intolerable because of its devastating humanitarian consequences and because of its destabilizing impacts in the region."

The US, has also cautioned against an offensive into Rafah, saying a ceasefire with Hamas would be the best option.

But Israel has said the latest offer falls short of its core demands, while also saying it will send a delegation to Egypt to keep working towards an agreement.

Despite the talks, Israel's war cabinet unanimously decided to continue the operation in Rafah ahead of the latest move on the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing.

Earlier, the Associated Press reported the Israeli military had issued an evacuation order to some 100,000 people from eastern Rafah. It called on them to relocate to places the Israeli government calls "humanitarian areas."

Israel has also conducted multiple airstrikes on Rafah since issuing Monday's order. Health officials in Gaza say over 34,700 people have been killed since the conflict began 7 months ago.