Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday approved his military’s plans to attack Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza where millions who have been displaced have sought shelter since Israel’s war on the besieged Palestinian enclave began on October 7, The Guardian reported.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister had approved the plans for action in Rafah but did not give details. It added that the military was preparing for “operational issues” and for the evacuation of the civilians in Rafah.

The war, which started after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7, has continued for nearly five months. Hamas had killed 1,200 people in the attack and taken more than 200 persons hostage. Some of the hostages were released in November as part of a brief ceasefire agreement in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and humanitarian aid.

Israel’s war on Gaza has led to more than 30,000 deaths in the region.

Netanyahu’s decision to attack Rafah on Friday came after a meeting of Israel’s war cabinet to discuss a new proposal from Hamas for a ceasefire.

Hamas has proposed to release Israeli women, children, elderly and sick persons that it has been holding hostage as a first stage. In exchange, it has asked for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel called the proposal “unrealistic”. However, Netanyahu’s office said that a delegation from the country would leave for Qatar, who has been a mediator in the negotiations, to put forward its position on a potential agreement.

On March 9, United States President Joe Biden had said that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a “red line” if there were no plans in place to protect civilians, Reuters reported. The president immediately clarified that the United States would not withdraw its support for Israel.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington had not seen the plans for an operation in Rafah, AFP reported. But he added that the US wanted a “clear and implementable plan” to ensure that civilians were “out of harm’s way”.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas also expressed concern over an attack in Rafah that could “result in a new massacre and further displacement of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” AFP reported quoting Wafa, a Palestinian news agency.

“The presidency underscored the urgency for swift intervention by both the US administration and the international community to avert this military attack, which could add to the already immense suffering of the Palestinian people,” Wafa said.