AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

‘Historic Failure’ for Israeli—and U.S.—Intelligence: How Did They Not See This Coming?

The horrific surprise attacks by the terrorist group Hamas on Israel are obviously deeply disturbing—but one has to ask, how come nobody saw it coming? It’s disturbingly similar to the abomination of 9/11, where an unprecedented, seemingly inconceivable strike took place—yet the signs of such an impending assault were quite evident when viewed in hindsight.

David Khalfa, co-director of the North Africa and Middle East Observatory at French think tank the Foundation Jean-Jaurès, says that, once again, there were warning signs:

It is a major failure for the Israeli intelligence services. A failure that could even be described as historic and without exaggerating, could be compared to what happened in 1973.

Israel is a country that is on permanent alert, ready to go into battle at any time. It is always on its toes. It is clear that there was a certain degree of unpreparedness, probably an error in the analysis and estimation on the part of Israeli intelligence services, but also in the preparation of Israeli special forces [for an attack like this].

He points out that the Israelis were completely caught off guard (emphasis mine):

The attack was three-dimensional; it took place on land, sea and by air. That is probably what surprised the Israelis.

Israel is a country that relies on its technology to anticipate threats and neutralise them before they arise. It is clear that there was an issue regarding anticipation, and probably a problem in their analysis [of] the threat level.

The scenario Israeli intelligence services were expecting was an invasion from the north, via Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

They were blindsided.

And what of the American intelligence apparatus? Why were they not aware of the impending threat? Some theorize that President Joe Biden’s resentment toward Israel might mean that we wouldn’t even share intelligence information with hard-liner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but there are also reports that we completely missed it:

American officials said Saturday they received no warning through intelligence that Hamas was preparing to attack Israel, leading to confusion among some at how Israel failed to detect signs of the rocket assault.

The capability of Hamas to coordinate terrorist attacks on Israeli towns without detection has raised concerns about technological blind spots for US intelligence officials, a senior US intelligence official told CNN.

US officials had been monitoring indications that tensions were escalating in recent months. But there was no tactical-level intelligence that alerted US officials that an attack of this size would happen on this day.

Our octagenarian president refused even to dignify the question of whether there was an intelligence failure:

Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter made no bones about what he thought our intelligence apparatus should do:

The full tweet:

AMERICAN STEPS TO TAKE RIGHT NOW: 1. Give Israel whatever it asks for to kill terrorists, including arms and access to American intelligence. 2. Expel every Palestinian passport holder in the United States. Give them 48 hours to get the hell out. 3. End every cent of aid to any Palestinian organization and institution. 4. Stop giving Iran money.

The attacks were clearly well-coordinated and planned well in advance:

We are talking about Hamas commando forces – special forces operating deep inside Israeli territory – with a modus operandi of a real army. Hardened by battle, they are trained and equipped with modern tactical resources and fight in several places at a time.

They sent eight pickup trucks with around eight Islamist Hamas gunmen [in each] patrolling the streets of towns and villages into southern Israel, killing civilians at point-blank range and taking entire families hostage, including women and children.

This situation is completely unheard of. It is a massive surprise attack, a coordinated attack that requires a level of intelligence and preparation on the part of Hamas. Probably some logistical support, too, from Islamic Jihad on the one hand and Hezbollah and Iran on the other. That would go a long way towards explaining what is happening now.

This situation does not appear that it will end happily anytime soon, and there have been repulsive acts committed by Hamas that can’t simply be forgiven or forgotten. While their atrocities won’t be dismissed, one has to wonder, considering the complication of the attacks—how did the planning go completely unnoticed?

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