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Israel ‘Caught With Its Pants Down’ by Failing to Pick Up on Hamas’ Attack Plans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other military leaders on October 8, 2023, after the attack by Hamas. Israeli government’s press office.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe infiltration of thousands of Palestinian fighters into Israel from Gaza seems to have at least temporarily caught Israel’s military and intelligence services totally off guard. As Israel recovers, questions have swirled about exactly what Tel Aviv may have known ahead of time. Sputnik asked senior Israeli intelligence experts to weigh in.The blame game for the intelligence failure which allowed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters to flood over the heavily fortified border between Gaza and Israel has officially begun, with senior Israeli security officials telling US media that intel picked up on a spike in chatter by Gazan militant networks shortly before the attack, but that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops either didn’t receive or didn’t read the warnings.Separately this week, an Egyptian intelligence official alleged to media that Cairo sent a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office warning of “something big” in the offing related to militants in Gaza, with the Israeli side apparently “underestimating” the warning to focus on tensions in the West Bank instead. “We have warned them an explosion of the situation is coming, and very soon,” the anonymous official said.Netanyahu’s office dismissed the latter reporting as “totally fake news,” stressing that “no message in advance has arrived from Egypt and the prime minister has neither spoken, nor met, with the head of Egyptian intelligence since the formation of the government, either directly nor indirectly.” A ‘high-profile Egyptian official source’ backed up the Israeli prime minister on Wednesday, similarly denying that any warning was given.WorldIsrael’s ‘Intel, Operational & Logistical Lapses’ Failed to Stop Hamas Attack – ReportYesterday, 10:59 GMTThese reports have fed into conspiracy theories on social media about how the 65 km long ‘Iron Wall’ separating Gaza from Israel – which is six meters tall and equipped with a complex array of cameras, radars, and sensors, and guarded by remote-controlled machine gun emplacements and drones, could be breached by lightly-armed Palestinian fighters using paragliders, pickup trucks, small boats and bulldozers, and all without being immediately noticed.“There’s no way – I [would be] awakened at night by a pigeon, by a stork approaching the wall. A cockroach crawling under the barrier would put the whole sector on alert,” a flustered woman claiming to have served in Gaza as an IDF reserve sergeant said in a viral video. “How did they manage to enter on tractors – 400 people and nobody noticed? This simply cannot be.”Others characterized the surprise attack as a successful deception operation, with additional Israeli intelligence officials telling media that Hamas’ “unprecedented intelligence tactic to mislead Israel” gave Tel Aviv “the impression that it was not ready for a fight.”“This is our 9/11. They got us,” IDF spokesperson Nir Dinar lamented. “They surprised us and they came fast from many spots – both from the air and on the ground and the sea.”Indeed, the first stage of the operation was so well-coordinated and flawlessly executed from a military standpoint that Israeli President Isaac Herzog accused “proxy commanders in Iran” of ‘supporting and directing’ Hamas – claims which Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei slapped down on Tuesday.“Supporters of the usurping regime, and even some people from the regime itself have said some nonsense over the past couple of days and it’s still continuing. They have said the Islamic Republic of Iran is behind this move. They are wrong,” Khamenei said. “Those who say what the Palestinians did was caused by non-Palestinians have not yet got to know the Palestinian people,” he added, praising the “smart and wise” planners behind the operation.AnalysisWhy US Warship Deployment Nearby Israel Spells Escalation RisksYesterday, 17:50 GMT

How Did Israel Get Duped So Badly?

There was nothing conspiratorial about the intelligence failure leading to Saturday’s surprise Hamas-led assault, says Alex Wexler, a political analyst and former advisor to Israel’s internal security minister.“This was just our failure as Israel. It was a holiday, it was a Saturday,” Wexler told Sputnik. “Exactly 50 years ago, on October 6, 1973, we experienced something similar,” he recalled, referring to the so-called Yom Kippur War.“So what the American newspaper published is incorrect, inaccurate information, I think. We simply soiled ourselves, got caught with our pants down, as sometimes happens,” the intelligence expert added.How the crisis will proceed from now on is “hard to say,” Wexler emphasized. “But the government that allowed such an attack to take place…including the prime minister, the defense minister, the head of military intelligence should have resigned, in my point of view,” he added, saying this could still take place soon after the hot phase of the conflict ends.Wexler attributes at least part of the success of Hamas’s ability to plan the operation in secret to the lack of chatter about it using radio and other communication technology. “Because our intelligence 56 years ago managed to record a closed-circuit conversion between President Nasser of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan on the first day of the Six Day War. Now I think our capabilities are much stronger.”Musing over Israel’s possible plans for a ground war in Gaza, Wexler said such an operation will take place, but “will have to be done very carefully, because everything is mined there, and they are constantly waiting for us to enter. But we will enter, I don’t know if tomorrow, the day after or three days from now.”AnalysisScott Ritter: Israeli Assault on Gaza is Doomed to FailYesterday, 17:38 GMT

Intelligence Not an ‘Exact Science’

Yaakov Kedmi, former head of the Nativ intelligence agency specializing in repatriating Jews from the former Soviet space to Israel, similarly dismissed the idea of the Israeli military or state deliberately ignoring Hamas preparations for an attack, telling Sputnik that more time will be needed to figure out exactly what happened.

“In this case, this was more of an operational failure by those who should have been prepared. Intelligence is not an exact science,” Kedmi said. “Intelligence provides more or less certain estimates, which aren’t always accurate, and the data is also not always accurate, with operational decisions made based on the [perceived] danger.”

Kedmi pointed to the folly shown by the IDF in apparently being over-reliant on its high-tech ‘impenetrable’ border wall without padding out the rear with actual troops on the ground. “Dozens, hundreds of cameras can be completely disabled by any sniper rifle. This doesn’t require intelligence. The antennas on the towers that exist for communication with command can be neutralized by the most primitive kinds of drones that children play with by attaching a grenade to them – this does not require intelligence,” he said.Even after the assaults began on Saturday, commanders failed to take advantage of Israel’s capabilities, Kedmi said.

“Combat helicopters were not on alert. A combat helicopter could fly to the spot within five minutes, and blow those jeeps and bulldozers breaking down the barriers to hell; but a unit ready for immediate deployment was not available. None of this was done. It took several hours for troops to arrive, the first among them special forces, who are always ready. A number of guys were abandoned,” Kedmi said, saying that such a small presence was not enough to defend the entire 65 km long border area.

Ultimately, the observer believes that ideas about the power and capabilities of Israel’s military and its intelligence services may have proven “a little exaggerated” in the public imagination. “Intelligence is a complex system,” and the breakdown witnessed Saturday was a failure of operational intelligence, including of those agents working among the Palestinians, Kedmi said.“The most difficult thing in intelligence that you can never fully rely on is assessing enemy intentions. They can change, and they change very often,” Kedmi said, evoking former Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Saad el-Shazly, who once recalled that he wasn’t sure that the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel would commence until 15 minutes before it actually began, when then-President Anwar Sadat entered the command post in a field marshal’s uniform.“In other words, the question of intentions and what will ultimately happen may not be known even by high command. Therefore, competent, correct intelligence prepares the army, and the operational elements of the forces must be ready in accordance with their capabilities…What are they capable of? The fact that Hamas is capable of simultaneously throwing some 2,000-3,000 people into battle has always been clear to everyone…Therefore, the defensive lines and defense system should have been ready for this, regardless of what agents report, or what this or that Hamas leader thinks,” Kedmi summed up.AnalysisWhat is Israel’s Merkava IV Tank That Ukraine Wanted and Hamas Destroyed?10 October, 19:09 GMT

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