Israel vowed on Wednesday to press on with a "powerful" operation in war-torn Gaza's Rafah, even as calls mounted for it to hold off sending troops into the territory's overcrowded far-southern city.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week ordered the Israeli army to prepare for an incursion into Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are trapped.

Netanyahu has come under growing pressure to refrain from launching a large-scale ground assault on Rafah, but has insisted Hamas' battalions must be eliminated in the city.