Israel knew about Hamas attack over a year in advance: report

The New York Times is reporting that Israel knew about Hamas battle plans to attack southern Israel over a year before the Oct. 7 operation took place, but dismissed them as “aspirational.”

Published - December 01, 2023 10:20 pm IST - JERUSALEM

Palestinians wave their national flag and celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis southern on October 7, 2023.

Palestinians wave their national flag and celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis southern on October 7, 2023. | Photo Credit: Yousef Masoud

Israel's military was aware of Hamas ' plan to launch an attack on Israeli soil over a year before the devastating Oct. 7 operation that killed hundreds of people, The New York Times reported on December 1.

It was the latest in a series of signs that top Israeli commanders either ignored or played down warnings that Hamas was plotting the attack, which triggered a war against the Islamic militant group that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

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The Times said Israeli officials were in possession of a 40-page battle plan, code-named “Jericho Wall,” that detailed a hypothetical Hamas attack on southern Israeli communities.

It was unclear how the document was obtained by Israel, but the article said that it had been translated — indicating it may have been in Arabic and directly intercepted from Hamas.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the report, saying it was “currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organization Hamas.”

“Questions of this kind will be looked into in a later stage,” it said.

The document was seen by many Israeli military and intelligence officials, the report said, though it was unclear if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other top leaders had seen it.

The document predicted that Hamas would bombard Israel with rockets, use drones to disable Israel's security and surveillance abilities at the border wall, and take over southern communities and military bases. Another 2016 Israeli defense memo obtained by the Times said Hamas intended to take hostages back to Gaza.

The Oct. 7 attack — in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 people were abducted and taken to Gaza — would uncannily mirror the one outlined in the battle plan. But Israeli officials had brushed off the plan, the report said, dismissing it as “aspirational” rather than something that could practically take place, the report said.

The report comes amid public fury toward the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to prevent an attack that appears to have been preceded by numerous warning signs.

The attack was planned in plain sight. A month before the assault, Hamas posted a video to social media showing fighters using explosives to blast through a replica of the border gate, sweep in on pickup trucks and then move building by building through a full-scale reconstruction of an Israeli town, firing automatic weapons at human-silhouetted paper targets.

In the video, the militants destroyed mock-ups of the wall’s concrete towers and a communications antenna, just as they would do for real on Oct. 7.

Adding to public outrage over the military's apparent negligence, the Israeli media has reported that military officials dismissed warnings from female border spotters who warned that they were witnessing Hamas’ preparations for the attack. According to the media reports, the young women reported seeing Hamas drones and attempts to knock out Israeli border cameras in the months leading up to the attack.

Mr. Netanyahu has stopped short of apologizing for the attack, and has said that determining blame will have to come after the war is waged. Critics say he is attempting to escape responsibility for myriad intelligence failures leading to the deadliest day in Israeli history.

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