Hamas, a Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip, launched a large-scale surprise attack on Israel from Gaza, breaching the wire that separates the two territories in multiple places. This is the most serious cross-border attack Israel has faced in more than a generation.
But with all its vast resources, how did Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, not see this attack coming?
In a startling turn of events, Israeli officials are left grappling with the question of how their intelligence apparatus failed to anticipate a major attack from Gaza. Dozens of armed Palestinian gunmen successfully breached the heavily fortified border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, while Gaza launched thousands of rockets into Israel.
According to the BBC, Israel “has carried out precisely timed assassinations of militant leaders, knowing all their movements intimately”.
The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, popularly known as Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, is a fortified force to reckon with in the intelligence and espionage community.
Yet, despite the combined efforts of Shin Bet (Israeli domestic intelligence), Mossad (external spy agency), and the Israel Defense Forces, the attack seemed to take them completely by surprise.
“It is frankly astounding that nobody saw this coming”, reasons BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardner.
Israel boasts one of the most extensive and well-funded intelligence networks in the Middle East, with informants and agents strategically placed in various regions, including Palestinian militant groups.
Along the Gaza-Israel border, surveillance cameras, ground-motion sensors, and regular army patrols were meant to deter infiltrations, yet Hamas militants managed to breach these defenses through bulldozing, cutting wire fences, and even entering by sea or paraglider.
With this attack, Hamas has displayed remarkable operational security and coordination to execute this complex attack, stockpiling and launching thousands of rockets undetected.
“To prepare for and carry out such a coordinated, complex attack involving the stockpiling and firing of thousands of rockets, right under the noses of the Israelis, must have taken extraordinary levels of operational security by Hamas” writes Gardner.
Historically, Israel has conducted precisely timed assassinations of militant leaders, often utilizing advanced technologies like drone strikes or explosive devices concealed in mobile phones.
However, Hamas, the armed group running the besieged Gaza Strip took Israel by surprise.
Hamas codenamed the attack Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as it launched assault inside Israel.
We are at war – Netanyahu
In response to the barrage of attacks, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared that Israel is at war. Here is his full statement.
“Citizens of Israel. We are at war, not an operation, not an escalation, a war.
“This morning Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens. We’ve been at it since early morning.
“I convened the heads of the security system, first of all I instructed to cleanse the settlements of the terrorists who had infiltrated – this operation is being carried out during these hours.
“At the same time, I ordered an extensive reserve mobilization and a retaliatory war with a strength and scope that the enemy had never known.
“The enemy will pay a price he has never known. In the meantime, I call on all citizens of Israel to strictly obey the instructions of the army and the instructions of the Home Command.
At least 200 people in Israel have been killed, and more than 1,100 are being treated in hospitals, according to emergency services. More than 230 people have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, officials there say.
Our Support for Israel is unwavering – US President Biden
US President Joe Biden has reaffirmed the US’s full support for Israel, saying its support is “rock-solid and unwavering” and backing Israel to defend itself.
“Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop,” he said.
He described Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as a “terrorist attack”.
“Today, I spoke with @IsraeliPM about the appalling Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel. I offered our support and reiterated my unwavering commitment to Israel’s security”, tweeted Biden.