Despite several intelligence warnings, both the U.S. and Israel overlooked signs of the large-scale and bloody attack carried out by Hamas, resulting in over 1,400 Israelis killed.
In the weeks leading up to Hamas’ extensive attack on southern Israel on October 7th, at least two warnings were received by the Biden administration about an increased risk of an impending Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These assessments were partially based on intelligence information provided by Israel.
An update from September 28th, drawing from multiple intelligence sources, warned that the terrorist group Hamas was prepared to escalate rocket attacks across the border. A CIA report from October 5th pointed to a growing likelihood of violence from Hamas, and on October 6th, American officials shared a report from Israel indicating unusual activity from Hamas, a clear sign an attack was imminent, as reported by Canadian CTV News.
However, these American evaluations provided no tactical details or indications regarding the extent of Hamas’ operation on October 7th. It remains unclear whether these findings were subsequently shared with Israel, which typically provides much of the intelligence information the U.S. bases its reports on.
Many official sources, both in the U.S. and the Middle East, have sounded the alarm about an increased risk of conflict. A senior official from an Arab country in the region pointed out that they had repeatedly warned both the U.S. and Israel about an impending Palestinian attack. A Middle Eastern diplomat in Washington stated that their government had frequently alerted the White House and U.S. intelligence about Hamas’ arms buildup and growing anger among Palestinians.
For most American and Israeli officials monitoring the intelligence, the expectation was that Hamas would carry out a minor act of violence – perhaps some rocket fire that Israel’s “Iron Dome” would intercept.
A recurring theme among intelligence and military personnel was that Israel’s inability to predict the attack was largely due to a lack of imagination. Hamas might have hidden the operation’s planning using old-fashioned counterintelligence measures, like holding physical planning meetings and avoiding digital communication that the Israelis could trace. Many also believe that Israel underestimated the threat from Hamas and failed to identify key indicators that the group was planning a large-scale operation.
There’s also speculation that Hamas might have had more success with its operation than they anticipated.
“I think that it’s very possible, if not probable, that Hamas vastly exceeded its own expectations. They thought we would mount this assault and there would be a couple dozen killed but never did they think it would rise to the level it did, said one source.