Israel, Hamas’ fatal mistake: intelligence stopped spying on radio communications

Israeli intelligence stopped listening to Hamas radio communications and this error could have been fatal in assessing the events that led to the October 7 attack. This was revealed by the New York Times, according to which for a long time the head of the Israeli internal security service was unable to understand whether the Islamic militia in Gaza was involved in yet another military exercise or whether it was preparing for something big. At Shin Bet headquarters, authorities spent hours monitoring Hamas activity in the Gaza Strip, which was unusually lively in the dead of night. Israeli intelligence and national security officials, convinced that Hamas had no interest in going to war, initially assumed it was just a night exercise. Their trial that night might have been different if they had heard the traffic on the Hamas militants’ walkie-talkies. But Unit 8200, the Israeli intelligence agency that handles enemy radio communications, had stopped intercepting Hamas radio communications a year earlier because it considered it a waste of effort.

According to three Israeli defense officials, until almost the beginning of the attack, no one believed that the situation was serious enough to wake up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Within hours, Tequila troops – a group of elite counter-terrorism forces deployed as a precaution on Israel’s southern border – would find themselves in the middle of a battle with thousands of Hamas gunmen who had breached Israel’s much-vaunted fence. , racing against trucks and motorcycles across southern Israel and attacking villages and military bases. The most powerful military force in the Middle East not only completely underestimated the scale of the attack, it completely failed in its intelligence gathering efforts, largely due to the mistaken belief that Hamas was a contained threat.

Despite Israel’s sophisticated technological capabilities in espionage, writes the NYT, Hamas gunmen underwent extensive training for the attack, practically unnoticed for at least a year. The fighters, divided into several units with specific objectives, had meticulous information about Israeli military bases and the arrangement of kibbutzim. Israeli authorities have promised a full investigation into what went wrong, modeled after the one conducted into U.S. intelligence errors before September 11, 2001. But it is already clear that the attacks were possible because of a series of errors that did not lasted hours, days or weeks. , but years. Israelis misjudged the threat posed by Hamas for years, and even more critically in the run-up to the attack. The official assessment of Israeli military intelligence and the National Security Council in May 2021 was that Hamas had no interest in launching an attack from Gaza that could provoke a devastating response from Israel. Instead, Israeli intelligence assessed that Hamas was trying to foment violence against Israelis in the West Bank, which is controlled by its rival political force, the Palestinian Authority. The belief by Netanyahu and top Israeli security officials that Iran and Hezbollah, its most powerful proxy force, represented the gravest threat to Israel diverted attention and resources from combating Hamas. American spy agencies also stopped collecting information about Hamas and its plans in recent years, believing that the group represented a regional threat that Israel was capable of managing. A total failure of services, as the employees themselves admitted.

Source: IL Tempo