Hamas’ surprise attack this weekend reportedly caught Israel’s vaunted intelligence services completely off-guard — so much so that senior officials said just last week that the Islamist militant group was neither interested in nor preparing for war.
Neither the Israeli Defense Force nor the Israel Security Agency — commonly known as the Shin Bet — issued any warnings that the terrorist organization, which operates out of the Gaza Strip, was about to launch the Saturday assault that has since left hundreds dead and thousands wounded on both sides, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
In fact, senior IDF and defense ministry officials said publicly last week that Hamas — which has since sent dozens of gunmen storming across the heavily-armed border under a fusillade of rockets — was not particularly interested in open conflict.
The hearing, which followed recent clashes along the border, saw the officials state that the militant group would not initiate war, the outlet said.
The terrorist organization’s assault this weekend — which has sparked two days of intense fighting, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded on both sides — has led to a barrage of criticism for Israel’s legendary intelligence service, which had otherwise been largely successful in its constant shadow war against the Jewish State’s enemies.
Israel has the most extensive and well-funded intelligence network in the Middle East, according to the BBC. That includes informants and agents that have infiltrated Palestinian militant groups, as well as similar organizations throughout Lebanon and Syria.
But it wasn’t enough.
“The entire system failed. It’s not just one component,” Jonathan Conricus, a former IDF international spokesman, told CNN.
“It’s the entire defense architecture that evidently failed to provide the necessary defense for Israeli civilians,” Conricus continued. “This is a Pearl Harbor-type of moment for Israel, where there was reality up until today, and then there will be reality after today.”
That failure has had consequences.
Israel has not seen this sort of fighting — or penetration by its enemies into its military bases and towns — since its 1948 war of independence, according to CNN.
“With the combined efforts of Shin Bet, Israeli domestic intelligence, Mossad, its external spy agency and all the assets of the Israel Defense Forces, it is frankly astounding that nobody saw this coming,” BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner wrote on Saturday.
“Or if they did, they failed to act on it.”
Israel has spent billions armoring its border to repel such attacks since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the network said.
That included an anti-rocket defense system that the US helped the nation develop to ward off air attacks.
It has also reportedly built a smart border system featuring cameras, ground motion sensors and subterranean walls. And it’s complemented them with regular army patrols.
The border fence between Gaza and Israeli is topped with barbed wire — and it’s supposed to be the kind of wall that halts such attacks, the BBC said.
But it made little difference – as Hamas reportedly broke through, cutting holes in the wire, or got into Israel using para-gliders or by sea, the network said.
The IDF has not given responded to whether it considers its lack of warning about Saturday’s attack to be an intelligence failure.
“We’ll talk about what happened intelligence-wise after,” Military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told CNN, adding that Israel is focused on the current fight.
A major investigation has already begun. But officials say questions could go on for years.