How Was Israel Caught By Surprise?

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: The central question being asked after thousands of Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and murdered more than 1,200 people following a year of planning is: How could Israel have missed this?

  • Context: Israel has one of the most sophisticated and extensive intelligence networks in the world. Through the use of spies, drones, eavesdropping, and satellites, Israel usually has a clear picture of what Hamas may be planning. Yet it was caught by complete surprise when Hamas attacked.

Tricked: Previously, Hamas made it seem like they were militarily incapable of carrying out a large-scale attack and that they were more interested in governing Gaza than attacking Israel. Some had even suggested they were becoming more moderate.

  • The truth: It was all a facade. Hamas had been building up an arsenal of thousands of rockets for the attack — destroying civilian infrastructure such as water pipes to build rockets — and spent much time and money planning how to maximize the death toll.

  • Also: Hamas was able to duck Israeli surveillance by doing nearly all of their planning offline. Hamas also employed new methods, such as using drones to drop small bombs on the border fence that disabled tanks and cameras, which took Israel by surprise.

Why it matters: That neither the U.S. nor Israel had any intelligence suggesting there was an impending attack, putting thousands in harm’s way, constitutes one of the most significant intelligence failures in recent memory. It has also increased scrutiny of Prime Minister Netanyahu.