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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Hamas envisioned deeper assaults, aiming to impress an Israeli warfare

TEL AVIV — The primary clues got here from the our bodies of slain terrorists: Maps, drawings, notes and the weapons and equipment they carried.

In Beeri, a kibbutz city overrun by Hamas on Oct. 7, one useless fighter had a pocket book with hand-scrawled Quranic verses and orders that learn, merely, “Kill as many individuals and take as many hostages as potential.” Others had been geared up with gasoline canisters, handcuffs and thermobaric grenades designed to immediately flip homes into infernos.

Every was like a chunk from a grisly puzzle, a snippet of nice element from a terrorist operation that known as for a whole lot of discrete crimes in particular areas. 4 weeks later, the reassembled fragments are starting to disclose the contours of Hamas’s broader plan, one which analysts say was meant to not simply kill and seize Israelis, however to spark a conflagration that might sweep the area and result in a wider battle.

The proof, described by greater than a dozen present and former intelligence and safety officers from 4 Western and Center Jap nations, reveals an intention by Hamas planners to strike a blow of historic proportions, within the expectation that their actions would compel an amazing Israeli response. A number of officers who had not beforehand spoken concerning the matter mentioned the intelligence about Hamas’s motivations has change into stronger in current days.

The findings additionally shed new mild on the techniques and strategies utilized by Hamas to deceive Israel’s vaunted intelligence institution and thwart preliminary efforts by the Israel Protection Forces to cease the assault. After breaching the Israeli border in some 30 locations, Hamas staged a mass slaughter of troopers and civilians in no less than 22 Israeli villages, cities and army outposts after which drew Israeli defenders into gun battles that continued for greater than a day.

New proof means that they had been ready to go even additional. Some terrorists carried sufficient meals, ammunition and gear to final a number of days, officers mentioned, and bore directions to proceed deeper into Israel if the primary wave of assaults succeeded, doubtlessly placing bigger Israeli cities.

The assault groups managed to penetrate so far as Ofakim, an Israeli city about 15 miles from the Gaza Strip and about half the space between the enclave and the West Financial institution. One unit carried reconnaissance info and maps suggesting an intention to proceed the assault as much as the border of the West Financial institution, in accordance with two senior Center East intelligence officers and one former U.S. official with detailed data of the proof. Hamas had been growing its outreach to West Financial institution militants in current months, though the group says it didn’t notify its West Financial institution allies of its Oct. 7 plans upfront.

“If that had occurred, it might have been an enormous propaganda win — a symbolic blow not solely in opposition to Israel, but additionally in opposition to the Palestinian Authority,” the federal government that workouts partial management within the West Financial institution, mentioned the previous U.S. official who was briefed on proof collected for the reason that Oct. 7 assault. The previous official, like a number of others interviewed, spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate preliminary intelligence findings.

Because it occurred, even Hamas was stunned by the sweeping nature of its incursion on Oct. 7, in accordance with the group’s public statements in addition to assessments shared privately with journalists. However Hamas leaders anticipated that their assault would yield extra than simply hostages, present and former intelligence officers mentioned.

A Hamas official, Basem Naim, asserted in an interview Friday that the group deliberate upfront for a extreme Israeli retaliation. He cited current occasions, reminiscent of Jewish settler assaults in opposition to Palestinians within the West Financial institution and the storming of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque by settlers, as fueling Palestinian rage.

“We knew there was going to be a violent response,” Naim mentioned. “However we didn’t select this highway whereas having different choices. We’ve got no choices.”

Hamas meticulously deliberate and ready for a bloodbath of Israeli civilians on a scale that was extremely more likely to provoke Israel’s authorities into sending troops into Gaza, analysts mentioned. Certainly, Hamas leaders have publicly expressed a willingness to just accept heavy losses — doubtlessly together with the deaths of many Gazan civilians dwelling below Hamas rule.

“Will now we have to pay a value? Sure, and we’re able to pay it,” Ghazi Hamad, a member of the Hamas politburo, instructed Beirut’s LCBI tv in an interview aired on Oct. 24. “We’re known as a nation of martyrs, and we’re proud to sacrifice martyrs.”

Hamas was keen to just accept such sacrifices as the value for kick-starting a brand new wave of violent Palestinian resistance within the area and scuttling efforts at normalizing relations between Israel and Arab states, in accordance with present and former intelligence officers and counterterrorism consultants.

“They had been very clear-eyed as to what would occur to Gaza on the day after,” mentioned a senior Israeli army official with entry to delicate intelligence, together with interrogations with Hamas fighters and intercepted communications. “They needed to purchase their place in historical past — a spot within the historical past of jihad — on the expense of the lives of many individuals in Gaza.”

Secret planning, high-level deception

The planning for the historic assault in opposition to Israel was underway for properly greater than a 12 months earlier than the occasions of Oct. 7, intelligence officers say. Hamas officers took pains to hide the preparations, at the same time as senior leaders dropped occasional hints about their intentions.

All through the Gaza Strip — the densely populated, closely surveilled seaside enclave roughly the dimensions of Philadelphia — Hamas performed above- and below-ground army workouts. They skilled with imported AK-47 rifles, handguns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and thermobaric projectiles that generate highly effective stress waves and intense fires with temperatures exceeding 2,700 levels Fahrenheit.

As they skilled, they rigorously scrutinized inhabitants facilities and army bases to create a matrix of potential targets, Western and Center Jap intelligence officers mentioned.

To acquire detailed intelligence, Hamas deployed low cost surveillance drones to generate maps of the Israeli cities and army installations inside few miles of the $1 billion barrier system that Israel constructed to wall off Gaza. They elicited further info, intelligence officers mentioned, from Gazan day laborers who had been permitted to enter Israel for work, typically in the identical farming communities that had been in Hamas’s crosshairs. They even monitored Israeli web sites, finding out actual property pictures and social-media postings depicting life inside kibbutzim and the layouts of buildings and homes.

The intelligence gathering was not significantly subtle, but it surely was methodical, mentioned Ali Soufan, a former FBI counterterrorism official and founder the Soufan Group, a personal New York safety consultancy that works carefully with Center Jap governments.

“Should you’re in jail, you examine the jail safety system. That’s what Hamas has been doing for 16 years,” Soufan mentioned. “Their on-the-ground intelligence was method higher than something the Iranians might have given them.”

The exact plans for the way and the place the Hamas shock troops would assault had been restricted to a tiny circle of elite army planners, amid what Western officers described as professional-grade operational safety. Probably the most essential particulars seem to have been withheld even from Hamas’s political management and the group’s chief backers, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militant group, as officers from each organizations have publicly acknowledged.

Because the plotting progressed in secret, others within the Hamas management had been busy planting seeds for an awfully subtle deception.

The plan’s high architect, Israel believes, was Yehiya Sinwar, Hamas’s army chief. Previously a Hamas detainee who spent twenty years in Israeli prisons, Sinwar is fluent in Hebrew and a self-avowed pupil of Israeli political tradition and information media. Armed with an unusually deep understanding of prevailing political currents in Israel, he and different Hamas leaders started issuing delicate alerts in recent times hinting of a brand new pragmatism.

It was a message that Israelis needed to listen to — that “Hamas needs no extra wars,” mentioned Michael Milshtein, the previous chief of Palestinian affairs in Aman, Israel’s army intelligence directorate. Milshtein, who briefly met Sinwar years in the past, mentioned that Oct. 7 bore a necessary hallmark of Sinwar’s earlier operations: a “data of the fundamental consciousness of the Israeli public.”

To buttress that notion of moderation, clashes between Hamas and Israel ceased after 2021. The group notably avoided leaping in on a number of events when its Gaza ally, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or PIJ, fired rockets or engaged militarily with Israel. To many in Israel, it was additional proof that Hamas had modified and not sought a bloody battle. Some reviews instructed that Hamas officers even handed alongside intelligence about PIJ to the Israelis to bolster the impression that they had been being cooperative.

That’s to not say that Sinwar and different Hamas leaders didn’t sometimes name for Israel’s annihilation. In a 2022 speech, Sinwar warned Israelis that Hamas would at some point “march by way of your partitions to uproot your regime.” But he and different leaders additionally professed an overarching dedication to build up the enclave’s infrastructure and enhancing the financial scenario for its 2 million residents. Since 2020, the European Union and different worldwide donors have contributed to dozens of latest tasks, from faculties and youth sports activities services to roads and sewage therapy crops.

In quiet assist of Gaza’s financial improvement, Israel agreed to grant work permits to twenty,000 Gazan laborers. In the meantime, it allowed Qatar to ship $30 million in improvement funds, first within the type of monumental suitcases brimming with money, then by way of Gazan retail shops, mentioned Amos Yadlin, the previous head of Israel’s protection intelligence and president of Thoughts Israel, a marketing consultant group for Israeli politicians and safety businesses.

The relative calm on Israel’s southwestern border was welcome, as Israeli officers had been preoccupied with issues elsewhere. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authorities was threatened by historic home unrest, together with unprecedented waves of demonstrations in opposition to his far-right authorities’s proposed judicial overhaul. Israel’s army perceived a far higher safety risk from Hezbollah within the north and from violent Palestinian teams engaged in escalating clashes with Israeli troopers and armed settlers within the West Financial institution.

The issues concerning the West Financial institution intensified over the summer season with the invention of latest makes an attempt by exterior teams to arm and incite Palestinians to violence. Officers in Jordan intercepted a number of shipments of small arms and explosives previously 12 months that had been smuggled into the nation, meant for recipients within the West Financial institution, in accordance with two Center Jap intelligence officers with detailed data of the occasions.

The contraband, transported in some circumstances by modified drones but additionally by truck, included assault rifles, pistols and silencers, Claymore-style antipersonnel mines and C-4 army explosives, the officers mentioned.

The final word provider of the weapons was unclear, however analysts mentioned the products crossed into Jordan with assistance from Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq, two nations that share a border with the dominion. What number of weapons efficiently reached the West Financial institution is unknown, they mentioned. No less than a few of the drones had been geared up with anti-jamming gear that made it troublesome to power the plane down, one of many officers mentioned.

“This was not one community however a number of networks,” the official mentioned. “Most of the makes an attempt had been foiled, and folks had been arrested. It was clear they had been making an attempt to make use of the identical routes and strategies as drug traffickers.”

The distractions and ruses labored. In Gaza, lower than 50 miles from the West Financial institution, the arming and coaching of Hamas assault groups was largely ignored or dismissed.

Surveillance footage and different information continued to move to Israeli listening posts. However a very powerful communication was occurring on channels that Israelis both couldn’t entry or failed to understand, present and former officers mentioned.

“They had been conning Israel on a strategic stage, utilizing handheld radios, land-wire networks within the tunnels and different comms that we couldn’t hearken to, whereas utilizing codes on the so-called open networks, which they knew we had been listening to,” mentioned Eran Etzion, former deputy head of Israel’s Nationwide Safety Council. “They had been creating an alternate actuality.”

As Gaza disaster deepens, some worry a Hamas ’shock’

Yadlin, the previous head of protection intelligence, mentioned Israel finally “allowed a Palestinian military to be constructed by Hamas and stored telling itself that Hamas may very well be deterred.”

“Israel,” Yadlin mentioned, “had been deceived.”

Naim, the Hamas spokesman, mentioned the group’s unwavering place on reclaiming all former Palestinian lands ought to have made its intentions clear. Hamas acted out of a conviction that “we’re being erased — our trigger is being erased.”

“We warned, we mentioned one thing is coming, we mentioned don’t guess on the Palestinians’ silence,” Naim mentioned. “Nobody listened. This operation, we contemplate it an act of protection. I’m besieged in a jail, I attempted to interrupt out of the jail.”

Within the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 7, all was lastly in readiness.

Amid an unprecedented early-morning barrage of no less than 3,000 rockets, leaders issued orders to 1000’s of males to infiltrate the border by land, air or sea. In a sequence that has been amply documented, the terrorists used drones to blind border sensors and automatic machine gun posts and used explosives and bulldozers to blast holes in Israel’s perimeter wall.

They punched by way of in some 30 locations alongside the border and had been overrunning army bases and the closest cities inside minutes. In what’s now thought to be the deadliest and most brutal assault in Israeli historical past, they shot, bombed and burned their method by way of 22 Israeli cities, killing and typically torturing about 1,200 and taking captive 240 extra, in accordance with the Israeli authorities.

A few of most brutal assaults occurred in Beeri, the place militants reduce open the stomach of a pregnant girl and dragged her fetus onto the bottom. In different cities, survivors instructed of fogeys being murdered in entrance of their youngsters and youngsters murdered in entrance of their mother and father. Different survivors described witnessing sexual assaults, together with rape.

“We all know from interrogations that Hamas got here in with detailed plans of their assault, together with which commander ought to rape which troopers elsewhere,” Protection Minister Yoav Gallant instructed The Submit.

Hamad, the Hamas politburo member, mentioned within the televised interview that there have been “problems on the bottom” throughout the assault, a few of them brought on by non-Hamas Palestinians who joined the raid.

Regardless of a sluggish however fierce counterattack by Israelis, lots of the assaulting forces, together with a lot of commanders, managed to return to Gaza, hauling their unexpectedly massive numbers of captives in automobiles, on bikes and even in stolen golf carts. About 1,500 Hamas terrorists had been killed by Israelis, and their our bodies, telephones and weapons had been exploited as an intelligence bonanza. Further insights got here from a handful of males who had been captured alive and interrogated.

The findings confirmed the thoroughness of Hamas’s intelligence-gathering efforts earlier than the assaults. Some useless fighters had carried high-resolution maps, estimated to have been produced by drones as shut as 150 toes above the bottom, presumably in the summertime, judging from the dryness of the vegetation within the photos.

One assault crew had been furnished with satellite-based maps, with markings displaying the routes from Gaza’s Shuja’iyya District to the closest breach spot within the fence, named “Malakeh Crossing.” The maps highlighted the group’s meant entrance, by way of two factors — the entrance and the again entrance of the kibbutz. Websites designated “Ambush 1” and “Ambush 2,” famous on the encircling major roads, indicated locations the place terrorists would create boundaries and traps to dam any rescue makes an attempt.

Nonetheless one other unit carried in depth lists of Israeli weapons and ammunitions to be discovered and looted in Alumim, a kibbutz that the militants did not breach, known as “Mission 502” in paperwork.

Together with maps and different paperwork, many useless fighters had been outfitted with handcuffs and gasoline canisters, in addition to directions to torch properties. The tactic aimed to smoke residents out of their protected rooms, mentioned witnesses and first responders who arrived on the scene.

What would a two-state resolution lastly appear like?

Much more alarming to some analysts was the proof of preparation for an prolonged assault. Hamas officers mentioned they had been stunned by their sweeping advances on Oct. 7 and weren’t ready for deeper incursions into Israel, or probably to the West Financial institution. But multiday provides of meals and equipment had been discovered amid the our bodies of a number of assault groups, together with the items that reached Ofakim and the close by Urim army base, which serves as a command heart for 8200, an elite Israeli intelligence unit.

“They deliberate a second section, together with in main Israeli cities and army bases,” mentioned a senior Israeli official who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate categorised intelligence.

Whether or not the attackers held real looking expectations of progressing so far as the West Financial institution is unclear. Hamas officers mentioned that they had hoped to realize hostages to trade for prisoners held in Israel and didn’t anticipate that just about all of the assault groups on Oct. 7 would attain their preliminary targets.

Nonetheless, Hamas officers have mentioned repeatedly that they did count on — and welcomed — an intensive Israeli retaliation. Spokesman Ali Barakeh, reached by cellphone in Lebanon because the Israeli floor marketing campaign was starting, mentioned Hamas had ready itself for Israeli bombs and believed it might additionally repel an IDF floor assault from defensive positions linked by a latticework of tunnels.

“They’ll thwart it,” Barakeh mentioned of Hamas’s forces. Referring to Israeli floor operations, he mentioned: “Land is simpler for us. Allow them to come assault by land. We’re prepared.”

Because the begin of the bottom invasion, different Hamas leaders have publicly exulted about what they understand to be a strategic victory over Israel. Hamad declared within the Lebanese interview that Hamas was ready to hold out the identical type of assault in opposition to Israel “time and again.”

“There shall be a second, a 3rd, a fourth” assault, Hamad mentioned, in accordance with a translation of his remarks by the Center East Media Analysis Institute, a Washington nonprofit.

Hamas’s pronouncements welcoming a broader battle evoke statements by al-Qaeda leaders within the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, famous Rita Katz, government director of the SITE Intelligence Group, a personal group that research the ideology and on-line communications of extremist teams. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden anticipated a livid American response after the assaults on New York and Washington, Katz mentioned, and he welcomed what he believed could be a violent, international confrontation between the Muslim world and the West, with Islam finally prevailing.

“Hamas knew Israel would strike again exhausting. That was the purpose,” Katz mentioned. “To Hamas, Palestinian struggling is a essential part in bringing concerning the instability and international outrage it seeks to use.”

Even when its present management is successfully destroyed, she mentioned, Hamas and its followers will proceed to treat Oct. 7 as a victory. That’s partly as a result of the group unquestionably succeeded in focusing the world’s consideration on the Palestinian battle, she mentioned.

“It’s the primary time I can do not forget that Hamas has change into so distinguished on a world scale,” Katz mentioned. “So many individuals have already forgotten Oct. 7 as a result of Hamas instantly modified the dialogue. It put the deal with Israel, not themselves. And that’s precisely what they needed.”

Warrick reported from Amman, Jordan, and Washington. Sarah Dadouch in Lebanon, Sufian Taha in Jerusalem and Souad Mekhennet in Washington contributed to this report.

Israel-Gaza warfare

Israeli tanks, amid explosions and falling shells, surrounded overcrowded hospitals in Gaza Metropolis on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Israel doesn’t “search to occupy Gaza,” marking a shift in tone after his earlier feedback that raised crimson flags within the Biden administration. Perceive what’s behind the Israel-Gaza warfare.

Hostages: Officers say Hamas militants kidnapped about 239 hostages in a extremely organized assault. 4 hostages have been launched — two Individuals and two Israelis — as households maintain on to hope. One launched Israeli hostage recounted the “spiderweb” of Gaza tunnels she was held in.

Humanitarian assist: The Palestine Pink Crescent Society mentioned it has obtained over 370 vans with meals, drugs and water within the Gaza Strip by way of Egypt’s Rafah crossing. Nonetheless, the PRCS mentioned, there hasn’t been permission but to usher in gasoline to energy the enclave’s hospitals, water pumps, taxis and extra.

Israeli-Palestinian battle: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has an advanced historical past, and its rulers have lengthy been at odds with the Palestinian Authority, the U.S.-backed authorities within the West Financial institution. Here’s a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian battle.

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