Scholars from around the world are investigating the “October 7th” phenomenon, which refers to the Hamas attack in which approximately 3,000 militants besieged 20 settlements in Israeli territory for several hours after breaching from the Gaza Strip. The assailants executed an atrocity which claimed the lives of roughly 1,400 individuals and captured 240 more. Hamas capitalised on the Israeli defences, which were constructed along the Gaza Strip frontier, by utilising the element of surprise. How could such an occurrence have occurred in a nation renowned for its intelligence agencies?
The director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST, a Moscow-based Thin Tank), Ruslan Pukhov, discusses the extraordinary failure of the Israeli intelligence services in an article published in the Russian language in Intelligence Express Laboratory (LIEX) titled “When the Guards Fell Asleep: the Hamas Attack and the Failure of the Israeli Intelligence Services.”
Failure of Israeli Intelligence Agencies
The leaders of Aman and Shin Bet, Aharon Haliva and Ronen Bar, accepted complete accountability for the shortcomings of their intelligence agencies ten days after the 7th October attack. Predicted upon the experiences of numerous predecessors in the security forces, the future of these leaders is as follows: premature retirement, a radical transformation in their political stances leading to diminished regard from both their peers and a segment of the Israeli populace, public rebuke of their own shortcomings, and, above all else, constant lamentations regarding the “indescribable suffering endured by the Palestinians.” The potential occurrence of multiple Eli Zeiras in the annals of national history will be ascertained by the investigative commission’s findings after the military operation in Gaza. Eli Zeira was a former Israel Defence Forces major general. Aman, the military intelligence agency of Israel, appointed him as its director throughout the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Despite contrary intelligence, his most enduring remark was his ill-conceived prewar assessment that Egypt and Syria would not launch an attack.
In conjunction with Israel’s broader security framework, the intelligence services are anticipating seismic shifts. The overemphasis on radio-electronic and cyber intelligence methods (SIGINT), exemplified by Shin Bet’s personnel reallocation from field operatives to “geeks sitting in their small offices and staring at computer displays” in the early 2000s, is unlikely to persist. Terabytes of data collection by remote surveillance systems, cameras, and sensors were rendered barely resilient in combat conditions and susceptible to improvised methods of disabling, as evidenced by the nation’s largest failure to date. Evidently, to rectify the twenty-year-old imbalance in SIGINT, intelligence services will employ more conventional intelligence techniques, predominantly human intelligence. Further internal reorganisation of Shin Bet and Aman is anticipated to enhance the calibre of analytical divisions and foster greater information exchange integration among these intelligence agencies. Certain authors argue that the politicisation of Shin Bet, which involved providing information to appease the prime minister, should be eradicated.
Role of Hamas Intelligence Service
Due to a failure to recognise the unfathomable degree of “organised malevolence” and the ingenuity and proficiency of their adversaries, Israeli intelligence services presumably encountered one of their most disastrous breakdowns ever. Hamas required only the pattern of operations of Israeli security services to achieve success.
Hamas, in pursuit of disinformation, strategically redirected Israeli focus away from its military operations against Israel and towards enhancing the standard of living for Gaza’s inhabitants, thereby sowing the perception that the organisation was preoccupied with other concerns. In 2021 and 2022, Hamas refrained from involvement in the limited military engagements that transpired between the Islamic Jihad and the IDF. Conversely, Hamas executed a meticulously coordinated spectacle, thereby illustrating to Israel their apprehension towards confrontational conflict. Concurrently, throughout an extended period, Hamas effectively executed a counterintelligence endeavour, immobilising the infrastructure of the Israeli intelligence agency through the elimination or enlistment of its personnel.
Furthermore, it is apparent that Hamas acquired mastery over communication channels, as critical messages were conveyed via couriers and personal correspondence (just like in the case of Osma Bin Laden), and the organisation rigorously monitored the phone conversations of its militants. In addition, the daily commute of thousands of Gaza residents to their places of employment in Israel presented a substantial opportunity for Hamas to gain unauthorised access to its agents and acquire timely, vital intelligence. Militants were able to construct a model of an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip. As a result, they exploited this structure to practise their assault. Comprehensive maps of Israeli military installations and urban areas were discovered alongside executed or apprehended Hamas personnel, in addition to tactical manuals that delineated vulnerabilities in the armoured vehicles of the Israeli army.
Hamas, which prevailed in combat but appeared to have lost the war, committed a disastrous strategic error and will likely cease to exist in the region as a political and military force in 2024. It turned out that at the eleventh hour, the organisation’s leadership in Gaza altered its initial strategy to abduct several Israeli soldiers. It issued directives for the execution of civilians en masse. The individuals affiliated with Hamas, being misinformed of Israel’s entangled internal political conflicts and perceived vulnerability, affixed their death warrants. A protracted ceasefire by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), political manoeuvres, and agreements conducted behind closed doors are the only factors that could instantly alter the situation in Hamas’ favour. An effort to reinstate the pre-bellum state of affairs through increased Qatari intervention as a “mediator,” a country that has established itself in the region for decades functioning as both an instigator and a firefighter, would only serve to entice the terrorist organisation further into the predicament. Israel would inevitably experience a recurrence of the October 7 calamity soon if this were permitted to continue.
Israel Abandons the Containment Strategy
The Israeli leadership appears to have abandoned the containment strategy due to its demonstrated lack of effectiveness. Twenty years of confronting Hamas and Hezbollah have demonstrated that this strategy is only effective when it poses a tangible and immediate danger to the continued existence of terrorist organisations, their leaders, and their financial backers. Electronic device-equipped security barriers, which were a crucial component of the containment strategy, failed to protect Israel from a sudden attack in October 1973 -when Israel constructed a series of fortifications along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal along the Bar Lev Line after capturing the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War or October 2023 – In 2013, Israel completed Project Hourglass, a 150-mile-long barrier along the Egyptian Sinai border.
At the moment, the Israeli Special Forces Have Entered the Heart of the Gaza Strip, and Hamas’s main headquarters have been taken over completely. The IDF announced on November 14 that they had completed the capture of Shatti, which is known as the epicentre of terrorism in Gaza City.