Israeli Commanders Believe Diplomacy Is the Only Way to Free Israeli Hostages

Four Israeli military leaders told NYT that the goal of decimating Hamas is incompatible with rescuing the hostages

Four senior Israeli military leaders told The New York Times that they’ve concluded the only way to secure the release of the over 100 Israeli hostages in Gaza is through diplomacy, not military action.

The commanders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the paper that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of eradicating Hamas is incompatible with rescuing the hostages. Israel has only done limited damage to Hamas, and the commanders said a drawn-out battle would likely kill the Israeli hostages, who are believed to be held in Hamas’ tunnel network, which is far more expansive than Israeli officials initially thought.

Before the Israeli invasion of Gaza, Israeli officials thought the tunnels were 100 miles in length. But now they believe there are up to 450 miles in underground tunnels, and penetrating them would be incredibly difficult.

The Times report said that Israel was planning to take operational control of Gaza City, Khan Younis, and Rafah by the end of December. But Israeli forces now only control some portions of Khan Younis and have not yet launched an invasion of Rafah. Hamas forces are also reasserting their presence in areas of Gaza City that Israeli troops have left.

Military situation in Gaza on January 20, 2024 (

After the Times report was published, Netanyahu publicly rejected an offer from Hamas for them to release all the hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, a ceasefire, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Netanyahu vowed to continue the slaughter in Gaza, which has killed over 25,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

“In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the murderers and rapists. And leaving Hamas intact,” he said. “I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.