Israel to push on with Rafah operation while continuing hostage talks

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that his war cabinet approved continuing an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in order to pressure Hamas to release Israeli hostages and achieve the country's other war goals.

"The war cabinet unanimously decided that Israel continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to advance the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

"In parallel, even though the Hamas proposal is far from Israel's necessary demands, Israel will send a working delegation to the mediators in order to exhaust the possibility of reaching an agreement under conditions acceptable to Israel," it said.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)