Breaking the Iron Wall: How Israel’s Feared Intelligence Services Missed the Hamas Attack

We discuss Israel’s use of white phosphorus incendiary bombs in Gaza and how Hamas planned the attack in plain sight, posting a training video in which they broke through a full-scale replica of the Israeli border wall just 2 weeks before Oct 7.

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First, we look at the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the communications blackout and Israel’s use of white phosphorus, violating international humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch verified videos “taken in Lebanon and Gaza on October 10 and 11, 2023, respectively, showing multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border, and interviewed people who described an attack in Gaza. (…) Upon contact, white phosphorus can burn people, thermally and chemically, down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat and therefore in human flesh. White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment, entering the bloodstream and causing multiple organ failure. Already dressed wounds can reignite when dressings are removed, and the wounds are re-exposed to oxygen. Even relatively minor burns are often fatal.” 1

Then we address the multiple and catastrophic security failures by Israel’s intelligence community and military. We look at SIGINT, HUMINT and IMINT failures. How did Shin Bet, the Mossad and the IDF miss this attack? Here are the main points: Intelligence officers failed to monitor certain communication channels used by Palestinian attackers. Military personnel and intelligence officers over relied on border surveillance equipment that was easily shut down by attackers. The commanders were all in one place, clustered in a single border base, that was overrun in the initial phase of the incursion, preventing communication with the rest of the armed forces. Intelligence officers accepted at face value assertions by Hamas military leaders, made on private channels, that they were not preparing for battle. The officers were aware that Hamas knew these phone calls were being monitored by Israel. 2

Another issue we address is Israeli reservists’ criticism for Yair Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, who remains in Miami rather than joining the fight against Hamas. The 32-year-old is currently living in Florida, where he moved in April 2023, after he was sued for defamation in Israel over social media posts against a political activist. 3

We also discuss Israel’s ground invasion (land incursion) in Gaza and the regional ripple effects: as Israel pushes ahead, regional players are preparing their next moves. Hezbollah might attack from the north, and Iran has hinted at getting involved directly. Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey might play crucial roles in the coming weeks. While Qatar is trying to negotiate with Hamas, Saudi Arabia is staying out of the mix. Also included: the Gaza tunnels, the hostages, similarities to 9/11 from an intelligence perspective, Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance on a two-state solution and his policies which ensured Hamas is not eradicated, and what might come next.

1. Human Rights Watch Israel: White Phosphorus Used in Gaza, Lebanon Human Rights Watch, October 2023 

2. Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley How Israel’s Feared Security Services Failed to Stop Hamas’s Attack The New York Times, October 2023 

3. Graeme Massie Israeli reservists question absence of Netanyahu’s son who remains in Miami Independent, October 2023 

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