How Hamas' intelligence capabilities surprised Israel

A comprehensive report reveals the level of sophistication of the Hamas attack and sheds light on the enormity of the intelligence breach pulled off by Hamas.

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TEL AVIV – An investigative report conducted by investigative journalists and military affairs specialists from Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has found that Israel’s intelligence services have consistently underestimated and failed to deter Hamas’ intelligence and military capabilities, according to Al-Ghad newspaper.  اضافة اعلان

The report found that the recent "Storm of Al-Aqsa" battle took the Israeli occupation by surprise, revealing the exceptional intelligence capabilities of Hamas. This highlighted the cumulative failure of Israeli military intelligence in predicting, preventing, and countering the sudden attacks by Al-Qassam fighters on Israeli settlements in the Gaza periphery and towns in the south.

The assessment by Israeli intelligence suggests that Hamas' intelligence apparatus has significantly improved over the past decade and has been actively collecting intelligence on the Israeli military's deployment and activities in the south and along the security fence with Gaza.

The investigative report reveals the extent of the information acquired by the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, concerning the locations of secret Israeli military facilities within the Gaza envelope, including the secret "Yarkon-8200" base in the south.

2018 Hamas attack may have proved to be a crucial intelligence gathering exerciseAccording to the investigation, Hamas used intelligence information for its military maneuvers within Gaza and along the Gaza security fence. The organization relied on deceiving and misleading various Israeli intelligence arms that failed to infiltrate the communication network of elite Al-Qassam units for monitoring, tracking, and intelligence collection.

Al-Qassam Brigades' covert "Seerat Maktal" unit in Gaza carried out an operation in November 2018, although it was detected and engaged by Israeli forces, resulting in casualties on both sides. However, the operation was described as "mysterious" by Israeli standards.

Hamas intelligence was able to decipher the encryption used by the wireless devices carried by Seerat Maktal's members, giving them access to the intelligence networks used by the soldiers in their units. This enabled Hamas to gather significant intelligence about the locations of Israeli military bases and detect gaps in the security fence and electronic warning systems along the security fence.

One of the most significant pieces of intelligence collected since the 2018 Seerat Maktal operation is the exposure of the secret "Yarkon-8200" base, where on the morning of October 7, 2023, the "Team 17" from Al-Qassam's elite unit managed to reach and breach.

Hamas likely gained a lot of intelligence in the precise and well planned Al Aqsa flood operationThe team consisted of ten operatives who infiltrated and penetrated the area deep in the south, away from the breached fence. They stormed the military base, planted explosives, and entered the facility, where they gathered intelligence information from the computers and military systems they found inside the base.

The Israeli security establishment is still investigating the extent to which sensitive information Hamas was able to gather during the attack. In a recording of the operation, the video footage captured their infiltration, attack, and a demonstration of the depth of their intelligence gathering.

The operatives knew precisely how to locate the secret base among several others in the area, and they navigated through adjacent bushes, reaching the back gate of the base, which was unguarded and then exploded, stormed, and opened fire on the soldiers.

The same situation was faced by the Israeli army's "Gaza Brigade'' unit, as multiple Hamas operatives infiltrated it and engaged soldiers, resulting in numerous casualties within the base. This battle reached its climax when troops from the "Tzalim'' base arrived at the "Yarkon" base to reinforce it. Later, special counterterrorism units pursued the remaining infiltrators.

Hamas' intelligence gathering also extended to the "Gaza Brigade" unit of the Israeli army. Operatives managed to engage soldiers and inflict heavy casualties within the base. As the battle in the base drew to a close, some soldiers of the "Gaza Brigade" encountered something peculiar near the office of the commander of one of the brigades. They noticed something strange.

The operatives from Hamas knew exactly how to locate the office of the unit's commander and launched three rounds of fire at a specified height, as if they knew the room's layout and the commander's seating position. Clearly, the infiltrators had access to extremely precise intelligence.

Top secret booklet outlined Al Qassams plans and shows scale of intelligence breachA short Arabic-language booklet, titled "Top Secret," was found near the "Mefalsim" settlement, describing the battle plan for the "Storm of Al-Aqsa" operation with remarkable detail. It lacked only a specific date. According to this booklet, the main unit intended to launch an attack on the "Mefalsim" settlement, consisting of 11 fighters, including a commander and two teams, each comprising five fighters.

Their objective was to approach the gate of the "Abu Safiyah" perimeter fence, which they were supposed to breach just before the specified time. From there, orders were issued to advance toward the southwestern corner of the fence surrounding the settlement, which was the nearest point to the Gaza Strip.

At this point, they were also given orders to take a position on the road to block reinforcements from reaching the Israeli army. The second team was tasked with approaching the "Kibbutz" and causing a breach in the fence. Then, the fighters were instructed to penetrate the "Kibbutz," seize civilians and soldiers as hostages, and take control of the military facilities and equipment. However, the plan did not provide a specific date for the attack, leaving it blank.

It's clear that the "Storm of Al-Aqsa" operation was not the only thing included in the Hamas intelligence plan, as it also involved information on the deployment of Israeli forces in the area under the title "The Enemy." It detailed the presence of about 1,000 civilians in the "Mefalsim" settlement, roughly 20 members of a reserve brigade, and another 37 soldiers from the Israeli army, including 27 soldiers from the infantry brigade.

The booklet contained information about other Israeli military forces located in the area that could provide reinforcements to the settlement as necessary. It mentioned the presence of three to five military jeeps in the "Nahal Oz" region, described as an initial reinforcement force capable of reaching the "Mefalsim" settlement within 3 to 5 minutes.

This wealth of information gathered by Hamas extended to the positions and deployment of Israeli forces and included the identities of high-ranking officers in the field. 

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