Header Ad
HomeDEFENCEHamas attack and Israeli intelligence failure

Hamas attack and Israeli intelligence failure

- Advertisement -
Hamas attack and Israeli intelligence failure

The gruesome surprise attack on Israel undertaken by Hamas, brings to the fore the importance of intelligence in any conflict situation, irrespective of whether it is a full-scale war or an act of terror.

Significantly 50 years ago even during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel had suffered owing to the lack of intelligence.  Interestingly, then the Israelis were upset that the US had refused to share the satellite-based intelligence inputs with them. This denial of information by the US eventually led Israel to think more critically about the need to establish its space program and launch its Ofek series of satellites for intelligence gathering.

Accordingly, Israel launched the Ofek 13 satellite known to be a state-of-art spy satellite on March 29, 2023. This satellite has a sensor known as synthetic aperture radar (SAR) which provides information both during day and night and in any weather situation and its time orbit period is as short as 90 minutes.

Israel has almost every modern technology and gadget from satellites, radars, cyber, AI, drones, and smart sensors to missile defence systems for intelligence gathering and Air Force aircraft for reconnaissance missions. Systems were in place for gathering Electronics, Commutations and Singles intelligence. But it appears that the ‘technology in general’ failed to provide Israel with any advance notice and prevent Hamas from mounting the cold-blooded attack.

- Advertisement -

This gives rise to the question — was over-dependence on technology, the main reason for the Israeli Intelligence failure? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because suddenly hundreds of Hamas fighters breached the technologically advanced fence intended to defend against threats from Gaza of border incursions using various modes for attack from land, water and air. They knew where to go, how and what to attack and how to take up the hostages and get back to Gaza. The question that arises is, if you are not able to track such acts then what is the use of putting millions of dollars to develop a technology-based structure for intelligence gathering? So definitely, overdependency on technology has put them in this chaos.

The other side of the story is that no technology alone was not the reason for the Intelligence failure because every technology has limitations. Also, there is a need to analyse the inputs correctly and in time without delay. If the enemy doesn’t use an electronic medium to plan an attack, then technical aids from satellites to phone-tapping equipment are of no use.

More importantly, human intelligence is the most important aspect of any intelligence gathering. The recent surprise attack by Hamas must have required a big logistical effort (gathering vast amounts of munitions) still it went unnoticed both during the launch and in the preparatory phase. This indicates both human and technological intelligence.

For the last few years, Hamas was continuously firing small missiles towards Israel, without causing much trouble as Israel’s Iron Dome system was able to neutralise more than 95% of them. So, this time Hamas decided to keep it simple and low-tech. Israel was confident that Hamas would depend mainly on rocket attacks and would never enter Israeli territory. At places like Jerusalem Israel is known to depend on Smart City technology that uses cameras, facial recognition, and advanced technological systems that are used at the entries of checkpoints. Around the Gaza border, the focus was more on technology than manning the border by keeping more troops for round-the-clock observations and monitoring. Hence there was a feeling that Israeli armed forces were sufficiently equipped to deter a Hamas ground assault. Unfortunately, Hamas thought differently.

- Advertisement -

Also Read: Can the Israel-Hamas conflict escalate into World War III?

Israel has an excellent network for gathering intelligence. They have three agencies which are dedicated to intelligence-related activities and they are Aman, Shin Bet, and Mossad.  Each of these agencies has defined mandates. Aman is responsible for collecting intelligence on Arab states’ militaries and protecting Israeli internal security. While Shin Bet caters for domestic intelligence gathering and undertakes counterespionage. Mossad, a very famous organisation, is a central authority for gathering foreign intelligence. It also undertakes covert relations with other states and special operations. There is one more agency called Nativ, which was founded in late 1952 to make contact with Jews living in the Cold War-era Eastern Bloc of Europe. Naturally, this task no longer exists, however, the agency continues to operate even today (a task not known). For some time now these agencies have been making significant investments towards upgrading their technical facilities and also are always in search of new technologies. Around six/seven years back agencies like Mossad were known to be in search of technologies in robotics, miniaturisation and encryption.  They were also looking for new automated methods of gathering information from documents and new ways of conducting operations more stealthily. The government has made significant financial provisions for such purposes and there always has been an attempt to evolve a very sophisticated tech architecture for intelligence agencies.   

On Oct 07, 2023, the ‘saturation’ attack was a big success as Hamas militants entered Israel in big numbers, chose a target where thousands of people were partying and there was limited security. They attacked from different directions and used old-fashioned means to launch an assault. It appears that they had formed different groups for different tasks. It is unlikely that an attack of this nature was carried out without using any technology. It is possible that Hamas could have undertaken a detailed assessment of the nature of technologies being used by the Israeli forces and could have identified means to hoodwink their technical systems, like say using encrypted technology. Today, in a major counter-offensive Israel is launching attacks on the locations which are known to be strongholds of Hamas. This means they had an idea about the places which are hideouts of Hamas and places where they are concealing their weapons. There is a possibility that there was no continuous monitoring of activities at such locations.

In this attack, there is a major lesson for various states, which are tackling terrorism. At no point in time, the state security machinery can afford to lower its guard. Also, it is important to note that technology is just a tool for assistance. Machines replacing humans is not a good idea in the context of national security. Machines can help provide good intelligence and present some options; however, it is the leadership which has to understand what machines are telling. In this particular case probably, the machines were not telling anything. This should have alarmed the Israeli military leadership and they should have asked themselves ‘Why all is quiet at the Gaza front’!

- Advertisement -
Group Captain Dr Ajey Lele
Group Captain Dr Ajey Lele
Gp Capt Dr Ajey Lele is Deputy Directer General, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. An ex-Indian Air Force Officer, he holds a Master's degree in Physics (Pune University), an MPhil in Defence and Strategic Studies (Madras University), and a doctorate from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. His areas of research include issues related to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Space Security, and Strategic Technologies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular