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Israel’s intelligence blunder on Gaza: Misreading Hamas abilities, intentions

Whether a result of hubris or something more mundane, Israel severely underestimated Hamas’s operational capabilities and intentions, believing that the group was content to sit on the sidelines, even as other groups like Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were on the attack.
Israel army

Following Hamas’s devastating attack against Israel last weekend, counterterrorism analysts and policymakers worldwide were perplexed at how Israel’s vaunted intelligence services could have missed such a complex plot.

Even as Hamas militants trained for weeks on Israel’s border with Gaza, the Israelis clung to preconceived notions that the military exercises were mere posturing and that Hamas was more concerned with economic development. Incredulously, this remained the case even as Hamas constructed mock Israeli settlements for practice raids.

By failing to question their own prior assumptions, Israeli government officials and military leaders believed that Hamas was content to sit on the sidelines even as other groups like Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were on the attack. For the most part, Hamas had remained quiet since the May 2021 cease-fire was brokered by Egypt. The attack was a combined arms maneuver that featured thousands of rockets fired, infiltration by land, and even Hamas militants on motorized paragliders. Jamming devices interfered with Israeli communications devices on the border. 

To be sure, there were other important factors, particularly the severe domestic political turmoil enveloping Israel, as thousands of Israelis took to the streets to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to seize control of the judiciary. Retired Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and reservists spoke openly about how the political instability in Israel was hurting military readiness. The Israeli military's response time of up to 10 hours to the Hamas attack is proof that military readiness had indeed been attenuated. Relatedly, Israeli forces had shifted resources from Gaza to the West Bank to deal with an uptick in violence in cities like Jenin and Jericho, where Palestinians clashed with Israeli settlers and PIJ had increased its operations.

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