Hamas’s sudden attack from the blockaded Gaza Strip on Saturday has raised questions about the extent of knowledge held by the United States and Israel before Hamas launched its offensive.
Informed congressional aides who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussions told Politico that US congressional staff members are left with more questions than answers at this stage regarding how the Israeli intelligence community seemed unaware of the impending attacks.
Mick Mulroy, former Pentagon official and Central Intelligence Agency officer, characterized the attacks as an “intelligence failure,” pointing out potential signs of arms stockpiling and offensive force preparation, as well as cyber activity prior to the attack, he told Politico.
While laying primary blame on Israeli authorities for the failure, Mulroy also indicated that the U.S. intelligence community should have picked up on some indicators. While the United States does not provide air defense coverage for Israel, both countries engage in intelligence sharing.
Mulroy emphasized, “They should have picked something of this magnitude up.”
Mulroy also suggested that the complexity of the operation suggests potential involvement of a nation-state actor like Iran, which might have sought to disrupt talks mediated by the United States between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
He said, “If Iran is behind this and coordinating it in any way, they have proxies all around Israel, and they can escalate by launching attacks from multiple directions, including Syria.”
An Israeli former security official described the unprecedented attack by Hamas as a “catastrophic” failure, attributing it to the “disarray” within the Israeli armed forces and intelligence services. Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser, compared the situation to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, calling it a “catastrophic failure” in relation to Gaza.
Freilich pointed out the failure in terms of intelligence and operations, emphasizing that Israel was caught unprepared. The divisional headquarters responsible for Gaza were occupied, and the response was significantly delayed.
He predicted that Israel would swiftly retake captured areas and launch large-scale attacks against Hamas. However, the ultimate objective remains uncertain – whether to conquer Gaza and overthrow Hamas or inflict substantial damage on them.
Freilich also raised questions about potential Iranian involvement, noting that it would be surprising if Hamas had acted alone in such a complex operation.
The situation in Israel remains volatile. The true extent of the attack, casualties, and hostages is unclear, as multiple hostage-taking incidents are ongoing, and some areas are still under Hamas control.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his citizens that “we are at war, and we will win.”