Israel’s top military officer says security failed in Hamas attacks, but there’s plenty of blame to go around – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Israel’s top military officer says security failed in Hamas attacks, but there’s plenty of blame to go around

Israeli heavy armed vehicles move near the Gaza border on October 12, 2023.

Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

Israel is reeling from the deadly Hamas terror attacks last weekend, with many looking for answers.
The surprise assault exposed major shortcomings in Israel’s feared military and security and intelligence apparatus.
A top IDF officer said the military is to blame, but there are several other things that went wrong.

As Israelis reels from the deadly Hamas terrorist attacks last weekend, many are left wondering how the militant group was able to break in and quickly cause as much bloodshed as it did. And while a top Israeli officer has acknowledged that the military ultimately mishandled security, the country’s troubles appear to run much deeper. 

The Israel Defense Forces “is responsible for the security of the state and its civilians, and this past Saturday morning, in the area near the Gaza Strip, we did not achieve this,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Thursday in his first public statement since Israel officially declared war against Hamas on Sunday.

“We will learn and analyze what happened, but now it is a time of war,” he said.

Hamas launched well-coordinated and widespread terror attacks against Israel on Saturday, carrying out a brutal surprise assault under the cover of intense rocket fire targeting civilian centers. A force of more than 1,500 heavily armed militants breached the fence that divides Israel from the Gaza Strip, while others infiltrated the country using tools like hang gliders, boats, and road vehicles. They then stormed small communities and villages near Gaza — even raiding a music festival — and went on a killing spree as Israeli forces struggled to respond.

Hamas operatives appear to have lulled the Israelis into a false sense of security while secretly preparing for the terror attacks that overran the border and disabled the military networks Israel needed to rapidly respond, according to multiple accounts in the attack’s aftermath.

The attacks, according to the latest figures, killed at least 1,200 people — most of them civilians and some foreign nationals — in what became the deadliest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust 80 years ago. Additionally, over 3,000 people were left injured, and Hamas is holding an estimated 150 people hostage in Gaza, where the Iran-backed group is the militant authority. 

Israeli soldiers removing civilian bodies who were killed in an attack by Hamas militants on a kibbutz in Kfar Aza, Israel.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld via Getty Images

The IDF has retaliated with six straight days of devastating airstrikes it says are aimed at Hamas targets that collectively have obliterated whole city blocks. These strikes have killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians and injured another 6,000, according to Gaza’s health ministry. United Nations organizations have warned that the already dire humanitarian crisis there will spiral, with critical supplies dwindling and internal displacement skyrocketing, as Israeli officials signal that the military campaign is only going to intensify.

How were the attacks possible?

Backed by Iran, Hamas is reported to have tens of thousands of militants, as well as an arsenal of rockets, anti-tank weapons, and anti-aircraft missiles. Israel, on the other hand, is supported by the US and boasts one of the most powerful militaries in the world, as well as fearsome intelligence agencies.

Yet on Saturday, that inferior force achieved the most devastating rupture of Israel’s defenses since the 1973 Yom Kippur War and led to comparisons to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US. How did that happen? What went wrong? The fog of war here makes the full picture of the failures that left Israel with its guard down unclear, but it already looks like there is plenty of blame to go around.

Palestinians break into the Israeli side of Israel-Gaza border fence after gunmen infiltrated areas of southern Israel

Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa/Reuters

Israel “fundamentally misunderstood the goals, objectives and capabilities of Hamas,” Beth Sanner, a former US intelligence official, told Bloomberg

Several things went wrong in the lead-up to the massacre, according to an early assessment of the situation that four senior Israeli security officials outlined for The New York Times. One of these is intelligence was focused on other threats to Israel — like Lebanon’s Hezbollah — and downplayed the potential dangers that Hamas could inflict. Israel also relied heavily on remote surveillance and weaponry near Gaza and was so confident in these capabilities that its forces turned their attention to other areas of concern and instability, like the West Bank. 

Hamas also managed to mislead Israel and give the sense that it was not seeking a major fight or confrontation, when, in reality, it was actually preparing for the terror assaults, according to Reuters. The group posted messages, for instance, on channels they knew were monitored suggesting they didn’t want conflict.

The group has also refrained from conducting major rocket attacks against Israel in recent years, allowing other armed groups like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to do the work, further giving the impression that Hamas wasn’t looking for war.  

But during this time, efforts were underway to get Hamas ready for the devastating acts of terrorism its fighters carried out this past weekend. One such preparation included the storming of a mock Israeli settlement that was built in Gaza as practice.

Israeli security forces patrol streets of Sderot, Israel on October 11, 2023.

Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

To make matters worse, Israeli society had been sharply split by the controversial plan to overall the country’s judiciary, which was spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government. The move sparked months of sweeping protests before it was eventually approved in July. Experts say Hamas appear to have sought to exploit this.

“They strike precisely when they sense an opportunity,” Bruce Hoffman, an expert on counterterrorism and insurgencies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told NPR of Hamas, specifically “when they see a gap generally in their enemy’s defenses, generally caused by distraction or preoccupation with other threats or challenges.”

In the immediate lead-up to the attack, Egypt, per multiple reports, warned Israel just days before the assault that something big was potentially coming. Netanyahu’s administration has denied this. But even the night before, Israeli intelligence detected signs of irregular activity but decided not to put forces near Gaza on high alert, according to Axios.  

Leading politicians have already become the target of local ire and frustration, according to videos posted to social media by Israeli media. An editorial published on Sunday in Haaretz, a prominent newspaper that prints in both Hebrew and English, pinned blame solely on Netanyahu for failing to identify the threat posed by Hamas.

A bombed-out section of western Gaza City.

Loay Ayyoub, The Washington Post/Getty Images

But in the wake of the resulting tragedy, while many across Israel demand answers, the country appears to be mobilizing for a major ground offensive — which war experts say would likely be a tough fight through a challenging urban environment. Officials are vowing to crush Hamas and strip it of its military capabilities and ability to control Gaza, which it has done for over 15 years.

The IDF in recent days has mobilized hundreds of thousands of soldiers, alongside heavy armor, near Gaza. Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, said the country’s massive aerial bombardment of the coastal enclave is just the start and will intensify and be followed by ground operations. 

Meanwhile, the IDF said on Thursday its fighter jets have struck nearly 2,700 targets in Gaza, which it claims are directly linked to Hamas. Entire neighborhoods, however, have been reduced to rubble or flattened, with scores of Palestinian civilians scrambling to find safety. Many remain trapped in the Israeli siege of the enclave. And Israel is showing no signs of letting up.

“This heinous attack was orchestrated by Yahya Sinwar, who is responsible for the Gaza Strip, and so he and the entire system underneath him are dead men walking,” Halevi, the IDF chief of staff said on Thursday, referring to leader of Hamas. “We will strike them, break them, and dismantle their system.”

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