There are questions arising: Where were the Israel Defense Forces in those long hours as Hamas militants rambled at will around residents near Gaza?
“The army completely failed as a quick-reaction force,” one Israeli stated, indicating how some of the residents that came under invasion had to rely on their civilian security forces while they delayed for the military to arrive.
The full explanation of why this occurred will take some time to emerge. However, surprise, scale, and speed overpowered defenses that were patchy and improvised for what they faced. Surprise was vital in Hamas’s assault.
Israeli intelligence failed to reach inside the planning by Hamas for the episode. The group has embarked on a long-term program of the facade to give the impression it was unable or unwilling to launch an enterprising attack. It also practiced good operating security, keeping off electronic communications.
Hamas then depended on the unprecedented scale and pace of what came next.
Thousands of rockets were thrown as cover. But there were also drone strikes on the monitoring gear that Israel uses on the border barrier to watch what is occurring. Heavy explosives and conveyances then created as many as 80 violations in the security fence.
Motorized hang-gliders and motorbikes were also affected, as between 800 and 1,000 armed men attacked out of Gaza to attack multiple sites. These swarming tactics have succeeded in overwhelming Israel’s defenses – at least for a while.
Such a range of action would have led to confusion within Israel’s command and control centers, already reserved on a Saturday morning, which was also a religious holiday. Some of the Hamas combatants targeted civilian neighborhoods, while others targeted military outposts. There has been surprise that these outposts were so lightly defended that they could be invaded, with images assigned of Israeli tanks in Hamas hands.
The gaps in the border remained open for long sufficiently to allow captives to be taken into Gaza before tanks were ultimately used to close them up. Defenses seem to have been patchy – Israeli security and defense forces had, in recent months, been more concentrating on the West Bank rather than Gaza, potentially departing gaps. Hamas may have depended on the divisions in Israeli society over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies to distract the security establishment further.
Israel’s military and intelligence capability has long been rated as the best in the Middle East and one of the best in the world. But they may also have underestimated the abilities of their opponents. The attacks have been analogized to those of 9/11 in the US when no one had anticipated that planes could be used as weapons. That was often called a “failure of vision.”
A parallel failure of imagination may also be one of the issues for Israel, leaving it spontaneous for something so ambitious from its enemy. Those concerns will undoubtedly be part of the long-term queries that will likely take place. In the short term, though, the emphasis will be on working out what to do next rather than looking back.