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How did Israeli intelligence miss Hamas' preparations for an attack? An American counter-terrorism expert explains how Israeli intelligence works

Javed Ali, Associate Professor of Counterterrorism, Domestic Terrorism, Cyber, and National Security at the University of Michigan answers questions THE CONVERSATION

One of the dozens of children and babies kidnapped to Gaza during the invasion and massacre by Hamas terrorists in Israeli settlements on October 7, 2023. From the social networks
One of the dozens of children and babies kidnapped to Gaza during the invasion and massacre by Hamas terrorists in Israeli settlements on October 7, 2023. From the social networks

Israel is recognized worldwide as having highly sophisticated intelligence capabilities, both in terms of its ability to gather information about potential threats inside and outside the country. And so as the details of the unprecedented and extensive surprise attack by Hamas on 20 Israeli settlements and a number of military bases on October 7, 2023 become clear, the lingering question is: How did Israel fail to piece together clues about this extensive and complex plan in advance?

"Israeli intelligence did detect suspicious activity in Hamas militant networks before the attack, according to reports by the New York Times on October 10, 2023. But the warning was not answered or fully understood - similar to what happened in the United States shortly before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 .”

"Intelligence analysis is like putting together a thousand-piece puzzle from individual pieces of intelligence every day and trying to draw conclusions for the decision makers so that they can do something with those insights," said Javed Ali, an intelligence and counter-terrorism expert who spent many years working for American intelligence.

We spoke with Ali to try and better understand how Israeli intelligence works and the potential gaps in the system that paved the way for the Hamas attack.

What were the questions that came to your mind as you watched the attacks unfold? A deliberate and extremely careful planning is required, and Hamas must have taken many measures to hide the planning from Israeli intelligence. It is possible that this planning was hidden during the coordination of such a complex task.

"Due to the advanced nature of the attack, I also thought that Iran almost certainly played a role in supporting the operation - although some US officials have said so far that they have no intelligence evidence that this was the case

"After that, Hamas is on the threshold of Israel's home. I would assume that Israel can better understand what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank, unlike 1000 miles from Iran. How did Israel not see something so advanced right next to her? Israeli officials said they believed that Hamas had already been deterred by Israel's recent counter-terrorism operations, and that the group lacked the ability to carry out an attack of the scope and scale that occurred.

How does Israeli intelligence work, and how is it perceived internationally? Israel has one of the most capable and sophisticated intelligence systems in the international arena. The planning and functioning of the intelligence system in Israel broadly reflect those in the US, regarding roles and responsibilities.

"In Israel, the general security service "Shabak" is the local security service, i.e. the equivalent of the FBI, which monitors threats within the country. On the foreign security side there is the Mossad, the equivalent of the CIA. Third, there is an Israeli military intelligence agency (AMN), similar to the intelligence agency of the US Department of Defense - and there are smaller military intelligence bodies that focus on various intelligence issues."

"Like most Western countries, Israel relies on a combination of different intelligence sources. This includes recruiting people to provide sensitive information to which they are exposed directly to the intelligence agencies, called human intelligence - important agents. There is what is called signals intelligence, which can be various forms of electronic communication such as phone calls, emails or text messages that Israel gains access to. There is also image intelligence, for example satellite images that capture, say, training camps or militant equipment.

"A fourth type of intelligence is open intelligence, or publicly available information that already exists and can be obtained by anyone, such as online chat forums. When I finished my work in intelligence a few years ago, there was a shift towards a much more extensive use of overt intelligence compared to the other traditional types of intelligence.

How is the Israeli intelligence system different from the American system? Unlike the US, one thing Israel does not have is a general intelligence coordinator, a single representative who knows and supervises all the different intelligence components.

In the American system, there is a position of Director of National Intelligence, who manages the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created in 2004. This follows the recommendations of the September 11 Commission of Inquiry, after it found that the American approach to intelligence was too fragmented and scattered among different agencies and offices.

Therefore, when there are difficult issues that no agency could solve alone, or there is a difference between the intelligence analyzes of the various entities, an independent office of experts is needed to help work on these issues. That's what this office does. I spent several years working in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In one of my positions I reported to the Director of National Intelligence. There is no equivalent to the central office and this position in Israel. In my opinion, Israel may in the future consider how an overall intelligence coordination can help avoid a similar challenge in the future.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

7 תגובות

  1. The reason is simple.
    Unit 8200 stopped
    to listen to Hamas radios
    Because they thought it was useless and marginal.
    The observation balloons ruptured and flew to Gaza and fell into the hands of Hamas
    And they did not replace new balloons.
    Hamas obscured the operation and talked about Hodna
    and upgrading life in the Strip.
    And above all the concept
    Due to lack of information and misleading statements from Hamas
    who has no face for war.
    Therefore, all the observational warnings were not heeded.
    and for training next to the Hamas fence.
    The long weapons were taken from the standby classes
    which prevented the possibility of significant civil resistance.
    The observers were not armed at all.
    And another backup power was wasted that could have provided an important temporary brake.
    Hamas eliminated the sniper positions and the cameras.
    So the mirror in the field is disconnected in one error.
    The soldiers were mostly released for the holiday.
    The soldiers in the outpost sleep in open rooms
    Without the weapons on them. At least a large part.
    There was no large air force of helicopters immediately available
    The force was apparently small, only 2 helicopters.
    The confusion in the area created a volcano and a confusion.
    The fear of another front in the north from Hezbollah joining
    Due to the holiday it was not easy to immediately recruit soldiers from home.
    The police force was not prepared for heavy battles
    was not well protected and died in droves.
    Many soldiers did not have enough ammunition
    to continue fighting and when the ammunition ran out they were eliminated.
    The huge amount of weapons I had
    The terrorists and his power overwhelmed soldiers and policemen
    and the standby classes.
    Lack of accurate and clear knowledge of a map. the battle
    The dispersion of the terrorists over a large area
    of dozens of towns that were attacked. Fortifying houses
    With hostages they slowed down the counter-action.
    Finally the arriving forces eliminated the attack
    There are many factors here that caused the terrible massacre

  2. Israel is also recognized as a country with one of the most corrupt leaders.
    The royal family has blood on its hands - and it continues to celebrate...

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