Israel was surprised by a rocket attack by Hamas fifty years after the start of the Yom Kippur War, highlighting the strategic and tactical failures of Israeli intelligence in containing terrorist actions from the Gaza Strip. The attack exposed Israel’s vulnerabilities, particularly those of its intelligence service. Intelligence is not equipped with omniscience, and history teaches us how vulnerable it is to threats.
The Israeli intelligence service has always represented the reference model for Western intelligence structures, working continuously to collect information from various sources and using sophisticated tools to counter potential threats. After decades of excellent results, including neutralizing threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, the current challenges are testing Israel’s ability to maintain its reference status in the global intelligence and security community.
On October 6, an estimated five thousand missiles were fired from multiple locations in the Gaza Strip towards different regions of Israel, many of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The offensive, called “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” was coordinated alongside a land, air, and sea invasion by Hamas members who used the moment of distraction to cross the wall surrounding the Gaza Strip and invade Israeli territory.
It took the Israeli army hours to provide an adequate response and secure its territories again, exacerbated by the limited presence of soldiers along the Palestinian border. The errors lie earlier, namely in allowing an attack of this intensity to be carried out without the Israeli intelligence services having any knowledge of it.
Following the 2021 conflict between Hamas and Israel, Israel underestimated the threat posed by the Palestinian terrorist group due to its temporary weakness. Hamas managed to prepare an attack without being discovered through a complex plan of deception and misdirection. The organization’s ability to camouflage for months or years played a crucial role in this strategy. Hamas launched a highly secret operation, limiting information transmission to senior leaders to avoid interceptions by Israeli intelligence.
This strategy made it difficult for Israel to understand the terrorist group’s intentions and movements, providing the organization with the cover necessary to carry out its attack plan. Hamas’s ability to conceal activities and crucial details of the plan was critical to the success of the operation. The planned attack demonstrated Hamas’ ability to adapt, improve tactics, and escape Israeli security forces. The Israeli intelligence apparatus’s failure to notice the movement of 5,000 missiles raises questions about the organization’s ability to adapt and execute a sophisticated attack.
The Israeli intelligence apparatus, including Mossad, Shin Bet, and Aman military intelligence, failed to anticipate the violent attack by Hamas, resulting in the deaths of over 700 Israelis and 2,500 injuries. This failure to predict the attack raises questions about the effectiveness of intelligence structures, command and control lines, and informants.
The missile and ground attack by Hamas can be attributed to a long unstable situation, with various causes identified, including the political choices of the Israeli government, particularly the right-wing government led by President Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s shift from national security to expansion policies, illegitimate Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories, and internal reforms, such as the Supreme Court, has led to tensions between the political leadership and the military and intelligence apparatus, weakening the command system. The answers to these questions will only be provided in the future when the conflict concludes.
The centralization of political control over the judiciary and military has undermined the autonomy and effectiveness of these institutions, leading to a perception of armed forces and intelligence leadership as a potential internal threat. This relationship has become increasingly conflictual, impacting the ability to counter external threats and guarantee national security. With the end of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, a review of intelligence activities and structures is likely, with a potential reintegration of Israeli military forces into the Gaza Strip, focusing on both technological and physical control by Israeli security forces.