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Report: Israel had blueprint of Hamas attack more than a year ago

December 1, 2023 at 2:37 pm

Palestinians groups in Gaza fire rockets to Israel in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip in Gaza on November 5, 2023. [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for 7 October more than a year before it happened, the New York Times has revealed in an explosive report citing documents, emails and interviews. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.

Knowledge of the attack was so familiar that the Israeli authorities code-named it “Jericho Wall”. It delineated the eventual multi-pronged offensive Hamas conducted with shocking accuracy and precision. It called for waves of rockets, drones disabling security infrastructure and storming of fighters into Israel on land and air to overwhelm border areas.

Although the plan apparently lacked an exact date, Israeli military leaders received the translated blueprint and circulated it widely among intelligence agencies. However, sources say that most considered an attack on such a scale beyond Hamas’s capabilities at the time, ignoring later warnings from analysts who matched the document to combat exercises.

Shortly after the document was obtained, last year, officials in the Israeli military’s Gaza division, which is responsible for defending the border with Gaza, said that Hamas’s intentions were unclear. “It is not yet possible to determine whether the plan has been fully accepted and how it will be manifested,” read a military assessment reviewed by the Times.

Then, in July, just three months before the attacks, a veteran analyst with Unit 8200, Israel’s signals intelligence agency, warned that Hamas had conducted an intense, daylong training exercise that appeared similar to what was outlined in the blueprint. But a colonel in the Gaza division brushed off her concerns, according to encrypted emails viewed by the paper.

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“I utterly refute that the scenario is imaginary,” the analyst wrote in the email exchanges. The Hamas training exercise, she said, fully matched “the content of Jericho Wall.”

“It is a plan designed to start a war,” she added. “It’s not just a raid on a village.”

Officials are said to have privately conceded that, had the military taken these warnings seriously and redirected significant reinforcements to the south, where Hamas infiltrated Israeli towns, Israel could have blunted the attacks or possibly even prevented them.

The lapse has drawn comparisons to US oversights preceding the 9/11 attack, with critics charging another fundamental analytical failure. “The Israeli intelligence failure on Oct. 7 is sounding more and more like our 9/11,” Ted Singer, a recently retired senior CIA official who worked extensively in the Middle East is reported saying. “The failure will be a gap in analysis to paint a convincing picture to military and political leadership that Hamas had the intention to launch the attack when it did.”

Israeli security officials have launched an investigation into missed signals before the catastrophic attacks. But the alleged disregarding of a highly detailed battle plan Hamas executed with staggering accuracy a year later, if proven accurate, raises profound questions around threat assessment processes and readiness lapses.