Israel's defense minister said Monday that the army's next target in the Gaza Strip will be the southern city of Rafah, claiming it is the last remaining stronghold of the Palestinian group Hamas.
Yoav Gallant made the statement at a press conference, the Israeli public broadcaster KAN reported.
Gallant said Hamas fighters and leaders are hiding in Rafah.
"We will also reach the areas where we have not yet fought in the center of the Gaza Strip and in the south, and especially the last remaining (stronghold) of Hamas in Rafah," he said.
More than 1.3 million people are now said to be living in Rafah and the surrounding area, most of them displaced from other parts of Gaza.
Several rights groups have warned against any Israeli military offensive in Rafah, which would claim the lives of many people there.
Gallant reiterated that at the end of the fighting, Hamas will not be able to rule Gaza again.
He described the army's ground operation in Gaza as "one of the most complex and complicated in the history of wars."
Hamas is yet to comment on Gallant's statements.
Israel has launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in which Tel Aviv says nearly 1,200 Israelis were killed.