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NYT: IDF Commanders Say Diplomatic Settlement Only Way to Free Hostages

Israel’s top military leadership has apparently concluded that it can either save the hostages held by Hamas, or it can defeat Hamas in intense warfare, but it can’t do so without killing the hostages. This is the gist of a report posted this morning by The New York Times. Its authors, Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley, both based in Jerusalem, were given what must have been unusual access to secret military plans and senior IDF commanders and civilian leaders. The conclusion they draw is that the war in Gaza is not going as well as military planners had expected, and that frustration of IDF commanders is causing friction with Israel’s political leadership.

“After more than 100 days of war, Israel’s limited progress in dismantling Hamas has raised doubts within the military’s high command about the near-term feasibility of achieving the country’s principal wartime objectives: eradicating Hamas and also liberating the Israeli hostages still in Gaza,” Berman and Kingsley write. “Israel has established control over a smaller part of Gaza at this point in the war than it originally envisaged in battle plans from the start of the invasion,” plans which were reviewed by the two reporters. “That slower than expected pace has led some commanders to privately express their frustrations over the civilian government’s strategy for Gaza, and led them to conclude that the freedom of more than 100 Israeli hostages still in Gaza can be secured only through diplomatic rather than military means.”

“The dual objectives of freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas are now mutually incompatible, according to interviews with four senior military leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity...” they report further. “There is also a clash between how long Israel would need to fully eradicate Hamas—a time-consuming slog fought in the group’s warren of underground tunnels—and the pressure, applied by Israel’s allies, to wrap up the war quickly amid a spiraling civilian death toll.”

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