Israel calls Gaza cease-fire a ‘nonstarter,’ undermining Biden’s proposal

Israel’s prime minister on Saturday called a permanent cease-fire in Gaza a "nonstarter" until long-standing conditions for ending the war are met, appearing to undermine a proposal that U.S. President Joe Biden had announced as an Israeli one.

The statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office came a day after Biden outlined the plan, and as families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas called for all parties to immediately accept the proposal. A major demonstration in Israel on Saturday night urged the government to act now.

And in a joint statement by mediators the U.S., Egypt and Qatar pressed Israel and Hamas, saying the proposed deal "offers a road map for a permanent cease-fire and ending the crisis" and gives immediate relief to both the hostages and Gaza residents.

But Netanyahu's statement said that "Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel. Under the proposal, Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent cease-fire is put in place."


FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a ceremony marking Memorial Day for fallen soldiers of Israels wars and victims of attacks at Jerusalems Mount Herzl military cemetery on May 13, 2024. (Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool/AFP via

Cease-fire talks ground to a halt at the beginning of the month after a major push by the U.S. and other mediators to secure a deal, in hopes of averting a planned Israeli invasion of the southern city.

The offensive in Rafah, which was once the main hub of humanitarian aid operations for the Gaza Strip, has drastically cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians facing widespread hunger. 

Israeli troops seized the Rafah crossing into Egypt on the first day of the offensive and, for its first weeks, the Israeli assault focused on Rafah's eastern districts and in areas close to the border.

Earlier this week, Israeli troops also moved into Rafah's western district of Tel al-Sultan, where heavy clashes with Hamas fighters have been reported by witnesses.

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President Biden spoke Friday to outline a three-phase ceasefire deal that Israeli officials have offered Hamas. It includes a six-week ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal, and a hostage-prisoner exchange, eventually building to a permanent end of hostilities and reconstruction of Gaza.

Phase 1: 

  • Lasts for six weeks
  • "Full and complete cease-fire"
  • Withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza
  • The release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners
  • American hostages would be released
  • Remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families
  • Humanitarian assistance: 600 trucks being allowed into Gaza each day

Phase 2: 

  • The release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers
  • Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza
  • Permanent cessation of hostilities

Phase 3:

  • Major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from devastation caused by the war

"This is truly a decisive moment," Biden said. "Israel has made their proposal. Hamas says it wants a cease-fire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it."

Where is Rafah? 

About 1.4 million Palestinians — more than half of Gaza’s population — are jammed into the southern Gaza town and its surroundings. 

They live in densely packed tent camps, overflowing U.N. shelters or crowded apartments, and are dependent on international aid for food, with sanitation systems and medical facilities infrastructure crippled.

The city is on the border with Egypt and is home to a key crossing for refugees and aid.


Rafah is a Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip and is the only crossing point between Gaza and Egypt.

Why is Rafah so critical?

Since Israel declared war in response to Hamas’ deadly cross-border attack on Oct. 7, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a central goal is to destroy its military capabilities.

"We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice. We will destroy the Hamas battalions there, we will complete all the objectives of the war, including the return of all our hostages," he said.

Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold in the Gaza Strip, after operations elsewhere dismantled 18 out of the militant group’s 24 battalions, according to the military.

Israeli troops in central Rafah uncovered Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels and dismantled a weapons storage facility, the army said Friday.

Why do world leaders oppose an invasion?

Civilians from across Gaza have fled to the south to escape fighting. The U.S. has urged Israel not to carry out a wide operation without a "credible" plan to evacuate those civilians. 

Egypt, a strategic partner of Israel, has said that an Israeli military seizure of the Gaza-Egypt border — which is supposed to be demilitarized — or any move to push Palestinians into Egypt would threaten its four-decade-old peace agreement with Israel.

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Moreover, U.N. officials say an attack on Rafah will collapse the aid operation that is keeping the population across the Gaza Strip alive, and potentially push Palestinians into greater starvation and mass death.

The U.S. has said that Israel should use pinpoint operations against Hamas inside Rafah without a major ground assault.

Chris Williams, The Associated Press, and FOX News contributed to this report.