Analyzing Israel’s Intelligence Failure to Counter Hamas Aggression

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On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, around 6:30 a.m. local time, Hamas threw upward of 3,000 rockets and dispatched 1,000 fighters across the border from Gaza into Israel. As the Israeli army has continued its counteroffensive into the Gaza Strip, concerns stay on how the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas was capable of using bulldozers, hang gliders, and motorbikes to achieve the most powerful attack in 50 years against the most potent military in the Middle East. 

Despite the scale and extent of the invasion, ABC News noted that Israeli defense officials asserted to have had no exhaustive warning that Hamas “was preparing a sophisticated attack that required coordinated land, air, and sea attacks.”

Many political and military pundits have blamed Israel for its intelligence collapse to anticipate the raid, but the success of Hamas’ surprise attack was a functional failure as well.

If the intention of an intelligence failure is “when something bad occurs to you and you didn’t know about it,” as former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman once defined it, then the Hamas ambush attack on Israel was an intelligence failure.

At present, no one comprehends why the Israelis were incapable of detecting the Hamas attack, and it may be many months before the Israelis can respond to the question.

Historically, Israel has been possibly the best government in the world at infiltrating terrorist organizations, which are arguably the most challenging to penetrate with informers.

Israel made a defense plan that depended on preventing rocket attacks, border crossings, and premature warnings.

But intelligence can only accomplish so considerably. The other critical defense is comprehending how your enemy thinks and works. And there, the Israelis also seemed to struggle.

Known as the Iron Wall, the 40-mile-long safety barrier that splits Gaza from Israel was constructed in 2021 at US$1.1 billion. It contains a sensor-equipped 20-foot-tall barricade, hundreds of cameras, and an automatic machine gun fire when detectors are tripped.

However, the wall was not sufficient against the surprise Hamas aggression. Hamas was competent to breach the fence in multiple locations around Gaza and continue its attacks without much initial opposition.

Similarly, Israel produced its Iron Dome, an air defense system, to safeguard its citizens from rocket attacks originating from Gaza. Created in 2011, the dome cost the U.S. and Israeli governments $1.5 billion to design and maintain. Before the surprise Hamas attack, the defense system had a success rate of between 90%-97% in striking down rival rockets.

The Iron Dome performed well when militants cast relatively few rockets, but it was less productive against the Hamas attack. When Hamas threw as many as 3,000 rockets into Israel in just 20 minutes, the system was devastated and not able to react. The quantity “was simply too much for Iron Dome to manage,” according to an examination by the Modern War Institute at West Point.

The Hamas raid was not incredibly sophisticated nor particularly ingenious. The attack was a classic military assault concerning ground, sea, and air attacks undertaken by one group against another.

This type of elemental attack is something that the Israelis could have and should have predicted– even if not on the scale it was performed. Given that the primary goal of Hamas is to “destroy the State of Israel,” Israel could have designed a defense plan that was not reliant on intrinsically unreliable intelligence.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” he wrote in “The Art of War.” Sun Tzu emphasized the significance of “knowing the enemy.”

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