Israel losing war in Gaza, commanders admit

Close up of faces of three anguished young men

Israelis mourn during the funeral of soldier Harel Sharvit in Jerusalem on 29 December. The settler from the colony of Kochav Yaacov in the occupied West Bank was killed by Palestinian resistance fighters in northern Gaza.

Debbie Hill UPI

Israel is losing its war against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, senior commanders have told The New York Times.

“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,” the newspaper reported on Saturday.

“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, which were reviewed by The New York Times,” the paper added.

The Israeli military leaders admit, according to the Times, that their advances have “been stymied by a Hamas infrastructure that was more sophisticated than Israeli intelligence officers previously assessed.”

Failure on the battlefield has led Israeli commanders “to conclude that the freedom of more than 100 Israeli hostages still in Gaza can be secured only through diplomatic rather than military means,” according to the Times.

Many of the Israelis remaining in Gaza are in fact military personnel – prisoners of war.

The unnamed Israeli generals who spoke to the Times consider that “a drawn-out battle intended to fully dismantle Hamas would most likely cost the lives of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza,” the paper states.

The purpose of the leaks appears to increase the pressure on the Tel Aviv government led by Benjamin Netanyahu to end the war and seek a negotiated way out of Israel’s predicament.

The Times cites one expert to bolster the Israeli generals’ analysis.

“Basically, it’s a stalemate,” Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in security studies at King’s College London, told the Times. “It’s not an environment where you can free hostages.”

“If you go into the tunnels and you try to free them with special forces, or whatever, you will kill them,” Krieg added. “You either will kill them directly – or indirectly, in booby traps or in a firefight.”

That assessment is underscored by the accusations of Maya Sherman that the Israeli army killed her soldier son who was being held in Gaza.

The Israeli army claims it found the bodies of Ron Sherman and another Israeli prisoner of war in a resistance tunnel in Gaza last week.

But Maya Sherman does not buy the official story that her son’s cause of death could not be determined and accuses the Israeli army of gassing him to death.

“Ron was indeed murdered,” she asserted. “Not by Hamas, think more in the direction of Auschwitz and the showers but without Nazis and without Hamas. Not by accidental fire, not by friendly fire, but premeditated murder: bombs with poison gas,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Resistance retains control

Despite three months of Israeli aerial carpet bombing and ground attacks, the Palestinian resistance maintains its command and control capabilities and continues to inflict punishing losses on the Israeli military.

While there are clear indications of the large scale of the Israeli losses, much is shrouded by strict military censorship.

Meanwhile, Israel’s only “achievements” are the killing and injuring of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, the forced displacement of millions and the destruction of hospitals, homes, schools and other civilian infrastructure on a vast scale – exacting a horrifying toll.

But systematic attacks on such soft civilian targets are indicators of cowardice, incapacity and genocidal criminal intent, not courage, military ability or success.

The Times story is co-written by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman.

In another major story for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this month, Bergman reveals that the command for Israeli forces to fire on their own civilians on 7 October came from the highest levels.

That story corroborates mounting reports that Israel killed many, if not most, of its own people who died on the day Hamas led a large-scale resistance assault on Israeli military bases and settler-colonies across the boundary from Gaza.

Splits and divisions

In recent weeks, splits between and among Israel’s military and civilian leaders over failure to achieve any of their stated objectives in the genocidal war on Gaza have spilled into the open and are reflected widely in Israeli media.

There’s a general perception that Netanyahu has every interest in prolonging the war as long as possible at any cost to ensure his own political survival.

But for Israeli generals to take the dispute to the Times suggests they are appealing to Israel’s patrons in Washington to intervene more strongly on their side.

So far, however, the Biden administration is giving a blank check to Israel’s genocide.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials who support continuing the war at any cost are like gamblers who have lost everything but hope that another roll of the dice might turn things around.

In reality, the longer and deeper Israeli forces remain in Gaza, the more time and opportunity the Palestinian resistance has to inflict losses that will slowly but surely bleed the Israeli army and broader society of their willingness and ability to carry on.

Admissions of failure come slowly

The language and tone of the Times article signaling Israeli military defeat is reminiscent of the indirect and progressive admissions of failure in the American-backed proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

It is worth reviewing how that played out, since the subtle shifts in language in America’s semi-official press are often much more informative about what is really going on than official statements.

For months early last year, US officials and media excitedly previewed a forthcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive that would punch through Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine and reach the coast of the Sea of Azov.

As it got under way in June, the Times marketed the offensive as a potential “turning point in the 15-month war” and noted that “American officials are optimistic that Ukraine will make enough gains, however incremental, to call the fighting a success.”

And Jake Sullivan, the Biden administration’s national security adviser, told CNN that “we do believe that this counteroffensive will allow Ukraine to take strategically significant territory back from Russia.”

By August, as Ukrainian forces got nowhere and suffered dreadful losses, the Times described them as “struggling to break through” Russian lines. Meanwhile, US officials scapegoated their Ukrainian proxies for not following Washington’s military advice.

Around the same time, US intelligence agencies concluded in a “classified forecast” that “Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol,” The Washington Post reported.

“Analysts say the challenges Ukraine has faced are multifaceted, but nearly all agree that Russia surpassed expectations when it comes to its proficiency in defending occupied territory,” the Post reported.

“The most deterministic factor of how this offensive has gone thus far is the quality of Russian defenses,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think tank whose major funders include the US government.

By early November, Ukraine’s military chief was calling the situation a “stalemate,” as the Times reported.

A month later, The Washington Post asserted that “Nearly six months after the counteroffensive began, the campaign has become a war of incremental gains.”

The Times by this time was willing to drop the euphemisms and admit that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had “failed.”

“Ukraine’s military prospects are looking bleak,” the Times reported at the end of 2023. “Western military aid is no longer assured at the same levels as years past” while the summer counteroffensive “is over, having failed to meet any of its objectives.”

The pattern is that admissions of failure come slowly, often couched in ambivalent language suggesting that with a bit more effort, a few billion more dollars, and perhaps some luck, elusive success could be just around the corner.

Similarly, the United States government lied to the public for years that it was winning its war in Afghanistan, while privately admitting that it was losing.

At a certain point, US officials were also willing to describe the situation there as a “stalemate” – again, a more acceptable term than an outright admission of failure and defeat.

In this case, The New York Times, a staunch supporter of, and reliable mouthpiece for Israel, appears to believe that the Zionist state’s best interests are in admitting failure sooner rather than later.

“It is an unwinnable war,” the newspaper quotes Andreas Krieg of King’s College saying.




This link is important for several reasons. First, through it we are alerted to one more barbaric practice employed by the Israelis in Gaza. The unspoken purpose of bulldozing cemeteries is to so wound the sensibilities of the people through this act of cultural degradation as to compel a loss of spirit in resisting or even surviving. This is a classic colonial tactic, to break apart and uproot the generational connection to place, to family and the dignity of memory. As well, the fact that the report appears on the devoutly Zionist channel CNN is significant. The proprietors of these corporate news outlets are being forced to acknowledge the increasing revulsion with which their readers and viewers are reacting to the genocide. The same concessions are appearing in other liberal media. It's become very hard to defend this level of carnage, destruction and wild-eyed racism.

Not that the editors don't try.


Just wondering about the wisdom of the resistance in posting these videos. The Israelis can see them too. They can see all the ways the resistance is outsmarting them. Perhaps better to keep it secret?


This is indeed a considerable reversal of form from the "paper of record". At the same time we're seeing throughout social media myriad examples of what appear to be poor discipline and weak motivation on the part of Israeli troops. They refuse to engage directly with resistance fighters, preferring to circulate repulsive, idiotic videos of themselves trashing abandoned homes and performing their idea of humorous skits. The generals know they haven't got the kind of army that can do the job, and the blame-shifting will soon become frantic on all sides.

On a lighter note, I'm reminded of the scene in Dr. Strangelove when the Russian Ambassador informs an incredulous President Muffley of classified American intelligence- "Our source was the New York Times!"

The editors are beginning to adjust to a reality none of them hoped to see. But as an institution, the Times must survive. Genocide is something they can certainly live with. But a genocide that fails to achieve a desired political outcome is most unwelcome. It impairs the brand. The Guardian is coming to the same position. I don't know whether this means the rats are abandoning ship or commandeering the helm. But they are showing signs of definite unease. The squeaking grows louder.

Add new comment