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Analysis: Israel’s misjudgment of Hamas caused the October 7 intelligence failure

November 10, 2023 by intelNews

Gaza StripSINCE OCTOBER 7, WHEN Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, many more details about the intelligence failure have emerged. It appears that Israeli intelligence officials have warned for years about military exercises held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which have included practice raids on cities deep inside Israel. However, the Israel Military Intelligence (IMI) did not heed to the warnings, because it considered Hamas operationally incapable of carrying out such raids. Instead, the IMI estimated that the Hamas leadership aimed to arrive at a settlement with Israel. That seems like the result of a highly successful disinformation operation, which added significantly to the effectiveness of the sudden attack on Israel on October 7.

It now appears that several months after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Operation Guardian of the Walls, which targeted Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May of 2021, Hamas began to train for a large-scale operation against Israel. However, the IMI estimated that Hamas was not capable of attacking aQ Quote large number of settlements simultaneously. It also believed that such an operation would go against the spirit of Hamas leadership’s spirit intention to settle with Israel.

As early as 2022, the IMI had analyzed videos of Hamas’ military exercises, which Hamas itself had made available on social media networks. Meanwhile, the intelligence information that emerged from the Gaza Strip showed that the professionalization of Hamas’ military arm, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was improving. However, IMI officials rejected the need to build an operative response to the mass-attack scenario that these exercises pointed to, because they saw them simply as exercises.

Israeli intelligence also analyzed the communications discourse between the commanders of Hamas, which it had acquired through intercepts. It purportedly indicated that Hamas intended to carry out raids on Israeli communities located near the fence between Israel and Gaza, but also on targets located deeper inside Israel. The communications discourse also indicated that such attacks could occur, not only using tunnels, but with incursions above ground and even through aerial methods.

One of the methods that Hamas trained on, and one that was known to Israeli intelligence, focused on disabling the highly sophisticated observation posts, sensors and remote-controlled machine guns, which Israel has installed along the border fence with the Gaza Strip. The purpose of these exercises was to enable an attack on the fence and overtake it these sophisticated tools with Hamas operatives, thus effectively blinding the Israeli forces. However, Israeli authorities made no effort to prepare for such a scenario by protecting these installations.

The broad picture that is emerging raises serious questions about why the IDF did not take a reasonable course of action against Hamas’ operational plan —and why it failed to do so despite being aware of the intensity of the Hamas exercises, and despite being aware of the group’s stated intentions. Q QuoteIndeed, a preventive course of action should have been in place even in the absence of specific intelligence warnings —if only to enable the IDF to repel a surprise attack by Hamas. There was no need to estimate what Hamas would do in order to prepare for a surprise attack.

Yet it is now patently obvious that there was ample intelligence about Hamas’ intentions. The latter were both apparent and known. Even without the wisdom of hindsight, it is clear there was enough intelligence to enable Israel to act in a timely manner against Hamas’ plan. Yet Israel severely misjudged Hamas’ intentions. In retrospect, it appears that ample intelligence about Hamas’ intentions had been gathered, that the IMI and Shin Bet were severely underprepared for a surprise attack, that the precise details of Hamas’ attack were missed, and that Hamas’ intentions were misjudged. These are the reasons why Israel was caught unprepared and suffered a catastrophic surprise on October 7.

Author: Dr. Avner Barnea | Date: 10 November 2023 | Permalink

Dr. Avner Barnea is research fellow at the National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa in Israel. He served as a senior officer in the Israel Security Agency (ISA). He is the author of We Never Expected That: A Comparative Study of Failures in National and Business Intelligence (Lexington Books, 2021).

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