Shortly earlier than attackers from Gaza poured into Israel at daybreak on Saturday, Israeli intelligence detected a surge in exercise on among the Gazan militant networks it displays. Realizing one thing uncommon was occurring, they despatched an alert to the Israeli troopers guarding the Gazan border, in response to two senior Israeli safety officers.
However the warning wasn’t acted upon, both as a result of the troopers didn’t get it or the troopers didn’t learn it.
Shortly afterward, Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, despatched drones to disable among the Israeli army’s mobile communications stations and surveillance towers alongside the border, stopping the responsibility officers from monitoring the realm remotely with video cameras. The drones additionally destroyed remote-controlled machine weapons that Israel had put in on its border fortifications, eradicating a key technique of combating a floor assault.
That made it simpler for Hamas assailants to strategy and blow up elements of the border fence and bulldoze it in a number of locations with shocking ease, permitting 1000’s of Palestinians to stroll via the gaps.
These operational failures and weaknesses have been amongst a big selection of logistical and intelligence lapses by the Israeli safety providers that paved the way in which for the Gazan incursion into southern Israel, in response to 4 senior Israeli safety officers who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a way to focus on a delicate matter and their early evaluation of what went fallacious.
The brazen infiltration of greater than 20 Israeli cities and military bases in that raid was the worst breach of Israel’s defenses in 50 years and shattered the nation’s sense of safety. For hours, the strongest army within the Center East was rendered powerless to struggle again in opposition to a far weaker enemy, leaving villages defenseless for a lot of the day in opposition to squads of terrorists who killed greater than 1,000 Israelis, together with troopers of their underwear; kidnapped at the least 150 folks; overran at the least 4 army camps; and unfold out throughout greater than 30 sq. miles of Israeli territory.
The 4 officers mentioned the success of the assault, primarily based on their early evaluation, was rooted in a slew of safety failures by Israel’s intelligence group and army, together with:
And a willingness to simply accept at face worth assertions by Gazan army leaders, made on personal channels that the Palestinians knew have been being monitored by Israel, that they weren’t getting ready for battle.
“We spend billions and billions on gathering intelligence on Hamas,” mentioned Yoel Guzansky, a former senior official at Israel’s Nationwide Safety Council. “Then, in a second,” he added, “every part collapsed like dominoes.”
The primary failure took root months earlier than the assault, as Israeli safety chiefs made incorrect assumptions in regards to the extent of the risk that Hamas posed to Israel from Gaza.
Hamas stayed out of two fights prior to now 12 months, permitting Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed group in Gaza, to tackle Israel alone. Final month, Hamas management additionally ended a interval of rioting alongside the border, in an settlement brokered by Qatar, giving the impression that it was not searching for an escalation.
“Hamas may be very, very restrained and understands the implications of additional defiance,” mentioned Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s nationwide safety adviser, in a radio interview six days earlier than the assault.
When Israeli intelligence officers briefed senior safety chiefs final week about essentially the most pressing threats to the nation’s defenses, they centered on the hazards posed by Lebanese militants alongside Israel’s northern border.
The problem posed by Hamas was barely talked about.
Hamas is deterred, the briefers mentioned, in response to one of many safety officers.
In calls, Hamas operatives, who talked to at least one one other when tapped by Israeli intelligence brokers, additionally gave the sense that they sought to keep away from one other conflict with Israel so quickly after a harmful two-week battle in Might 2021, in response to two of the Israeli officers. Israeli intelligence, they mentioned, is now wanting into whether or not these calls have been actual or staged.
The subsequent failure was operational.
Two of the officers mentioned that the Israeli border surveillance system was nearly completely reliant on cameras, sensors and machine weapons which are operated remotely.
Israeli commanders had grown overly assured within the system’s impregnability. They thought that the mix of distant surveillance and arms, boundaries above floor and a subterranean wall to dam Hamas from digging tunnels into Israel made mass infiltration unlikely, lowering the necessity for vital numbers of troopers to be bodily stationed alongside the border line itself.
With the system in place, the army began lowering the variety of troops there, transferring them to different areas of concern, together with the West Financial institution, in response to Israel Ziv, a retired main common who commanded floor forces within the south for a few years, served as the pinnacle of the Israel Protection Forces’ Operations Division from 2003 to 2005 and was not too long ago recruited into the reserves once more due to the conflict.
“The thinning of the forces appeared affordable due to the development of the fence and the aura they created round it, as if it have been invincible, that nothing would be capable of cross it,” he mentioned.
However the remote-control system had a vulnerability: It is also destroyed remotely.
Hamas took benefit of that weak spot by sending aerial drones to assault the mobile towers that transmitted indicators to and from the surveillance system, in response to the officers and likewise drone footage circulated by Hamas on Saturday and analyzed by The New York Occasions.
With out mobile indicators, the system was ineffective. Troopers stationed in management rooms behind the entrance strains didn’t obtain alarms that the fence separating Gaza and Israel had been breached, and couldn’t watch video displaying them the place the Hamas attackers have been bulldozing the barricades. As well as, the barrier turned out to be simpler to interrupt via than Israeli officers had anticipated.
That allowed greater than 1,500 Gazan fighters to surge via almost 30 factors alongside the border, a few of them in hang-gliders that flew excessive of the barricades, and attain at the least 4 Israeli army bases with out being intercepted.
Images shared by one of many Israeli officers confirmed that scores of Israeli troopers have been then shot as they slept of their dorms. Some have been nonetheless carrying their underwear.
The second operational failure was the clustering of leaders from the military’s Gaza division in a single location alongside the border. As soon as the bottom was overrun, a lot of the senior officers have been killed, injured or taken hostage, in response to two of the Israeli officers.
That scenario, mixed with the communication issues attributable to the drone strikes, prevented a coordinated response. This stored anybody alongside the border from greedy the complete breadth of the assault, together with the commanders who rushed from elsewhere in Israel to launch a counterattack.
“Understanding what the image was of the completely different terrorist assaults was very tough,” mentioned Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfuss, an Israeli commander who helped lead the counterattack.
At one level on the bottom, the final encountered — by probability — a commander from one other brigade. There after which, the 2 males selected an advert hoc foundation which villages their respective items would attempt to retake.
“We determined simply between ourselves,” the final mentioned. “And that’s how we glided by, from one village to a different.”
All of this meant it was onerous, particularly within the early levels, to speak the gravity of the scenario to the army excessive command in Tel Aviv.
Consequently, nobody there sensed the instant want for an enormous, fast air cowl, whilst social media emerged with studies of assaults in lots of communities. It took hours for the air pressure to reach over a lot of the realm, despite the fact that it has bases simply minutes away in flying time, in response to two of the Israeli officers and survivors of the assaults.
The fallout has been catastrophic for Israel’s safety, in addition to probably damaging to its popularity within the area as a dependable army accomplice.
Earlier than Saturday, “Israel was an asset to many nations within the area on safety points,” Mr. Guzansky mentioned. “The picture now could be that Israel is just not an asset.”
The Israeli safety providers don’t dispute the size of their preliminary failure. However they are saying that it may be investigated solely after the conflict ends.
“We’ll end this,” mentioned Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a army spokesman, as the military tried to regain management of the communities on Saturday.
However, he mentioned, “You already know that this will likely be investigated.”
Ronen Bergman reported from Tel Aviv, and Patrick Kingsley from Jerusalem.