How new studies reveal Israeli intelligence underestimated Hamas and different key weaknesses

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How new studies reveal Israeli intelligence underestimated Hamas and different key weaknesses

After the shock Hamas terrorist assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, 2023, many observers have been puzzled about how Israel might have been caught fully off-guard.

We have been amongst these puzzled, and proposed three attainable causes:

  1. Israeli leaders might have underestimated Hamas’ capabilities and misunderstood its intentions.
  2. Israeli intelligence might have been tricked by Hamas’ secrecy, lacking indicators that it was planning and coaching.
  3. Israeli intelligence leaders might have been so wedded to their prior conclusion that Hamas was not a significant menace that they dismissed mounting proof that it was making ready for warfare.

New revelations from current media protection have shed extra gentle on what occurred, which principally verify the position of defective menace assessments, Hamas’ improved operational safety, and affirmation bias.

An official evaluation

On Oct. 29, The New York Instances reported that since Might 2021, Israel’s navy intelligence leaders and Nationwide Safety Council had formally assessed that “Hamas had little interest in launching an assault from Gaza that may invite a devastating response from Israel.”

Because of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and safety leaders diverted consideration and sources away from Hamas and towards what they noticed as extra existential threats: Iran and Hezbollah. As an example, in 2021, the Israeli navy lower personnel and funding for Unit 8200, a key navy surveillance unit watching Gaza. In 2022, the unit stopped listening in on Hamas militants’ radio communications, although it apparently gathered different intelligence.

The U.S. made the same shift, specializing in the Islamic State group and different militants, leaving intelligence gathering on Hamas to Israel.

Revealing surveillance

Inside days of Oct. 7, Egypt revealed that it had shared with Israel high-level warnings of impending Hamas violence – “one thing massive.”

A Guardian report in early November revealed that Hamas leaders who had deliberate the assault took particular measures to keep away from being detected by Israeli intelligence, together with passing orders solely by phrase of mouth, somewhat than by radio or web communication. However Hamas’ planning didn’t completely escape detection.

The Instances of Israel reported in late October that Israeli troops of the Fight Intelligence Corps surveilling the Israel-Gaza border months earlier than Oct. 7 noticed Hamas militants digging holes, putting explosives, coaching incessantly and even training blowing up a mock fence. Their warnings have been ignored. The Monetary Instances reported in early November that Israeli safety leaders had additionally ignored particular alerts of Hamas coaching workouts from civilian volunteers in southern Israel who eavesdropped on Hamas communications.

The Monetary Instances additionally reported that weeks earlier than the Hamas assault, Israeli border guards despatched a categorized warning to the highest navy intelligence officer within the southern command. They’d detected a high-ranking Hamas navy commander overseeing rehearsals of hostage-taking and warned that Hamas was coaching to imminently “blow up border posts at a number of places, enter Israeli territory and take over kibbutzim.” The officer who obtained the message dismissed it as an “imaginary state of affairs.” Different leaders thought-about the warning unremarkable.

An in depth plan

On Nov. 30, The New York Instances reported that Israeli intelligence obtained an in depth Hamas plan of assault greater than a yr earlier than Oct. 7. The plan ran to 40 pages and included specifics that really have been a part of the assault, together with a gap rocket barrage, drones knocking out safety cameras and automatic weapons on the border, and gunmen crossing into Israel in paragliders in addition to on foot and by bike.

The newspaper additionally reported that in July 2023, a Unit 8200 analyst noticed Hamas coaching actions that lined up with the Hamas plan, which was code-named “Jericho Wall” by Israeli officers. The analyst decided that Hamas was making ready an assault designed to impress a warfare with Israel. Superior officers dismissed her evaluation, saying the “Jericho Wall” plan was solely aspirational primarily as a result of they thought Hamas lacked the capability to hold it out.

Israel’s defenses embody stations like this guard tower within the West Financial institution, with robotic weapons that may hearth tear gasoline, stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets, utilizing synthetic intelligence to trace targets.
AP Picture/Mahmoud Illean

A mirrored image on the Israeli intelligence neighborhood

These current studies clarify that Israeli officers had sufficient intelligence to step up safety. The truth that they didn’t suggests they might have dismissed all that proof in favor of different info they’d, which advised Hamas was not fascinated by or able to going to warfare with Israel.

However that will not have been the one drawback. Latest research level to growing fissures in civil-military relations in Israel. For instance, populist right-wing Israeli politicians in recent times have seen senior intelligence officers with skepticism as potential leftist rivals, which might have led Netanyahu’s Likud authorities to be hostile to different viewpoints and varied intelligence warnings on Hamas.

Though we can not observe the extent of politicization among the many senior Israeli intelligence ranks, the conduct of intelligence leaders who dismissed warnings previous to Oct. 7 is in step with groupthink, a phenomenon that specialists say might happen when social stress, a pacesetter’s influential place or self-censorship leads teams to specific homogeneous views and make uniform – and often poorer – choices.

The truth that superiors ignored warnings from the Unit 8200 analyst and the Border Protection Corps is in step with the concept that groupthink about Hamas’ capabilities and intentions led to affirmation bias dismissing Hamas as an imminent menace.

A few of the ignored intelligence analysts have been younger ladies, who’ve mentioned they consider sexism might have been a purpose male superiors ignored their warnings.

One other type of prejudice can also have been at play. Israel has centered intensely on its technological benefits over its enemies, assigning giant numbers of personnel to digital and cyber warfare models. Maybe technological optimism, religion in what the Monetary Instances described as “aerial drones that snoop on Gaza and the sensor-equipped fence that surrounds the strip,” gained out. Perhaps a reliance on expertise led to a false sense of safety, and even the dismissal of different types of intelligence that, it turned out, had uncovered Hamas’ actual plans.

A flip towards the longer term

Within the wake of the Hamas assaults, Israel’s safety equipment might want to examine these weaknesses additional and undertake reforms. Up to now, it stays unclear how many individuals, and at what ranges of the Israeli authorities, obtained the varied warnings prematurely of Oct. 7. Subsequently, it’s internet but clear what particular adjustments in Israel may forestall the same failure sooner or later.


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