Middle East Eye / October 9, 2023
Military commander tells Middle East Eye that Israel had information that an attack was brewing but failed to predict the worst.
An Israeli colonel who is currently on active duty told MEE that incorrect intelligence evaluations and government interference in the military meant Israel was caught off guard on Saturday when Palestinian fighters staged a devastating attack.
“The situation in Gaza has been stable for a long time, and we didn’t expect such a large-scale attack,” the colonel said, speaking anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media.
Hundreds of Palestinian fighters, the majority belonging to Hamas, flooded into Israel, storming Israel’s boundary fence, dropping down on paragliders and emerging from the sea.
Hamas said the assault was a response to Israeli violations of Palestinians and Muslim holy sites, particularly occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
So far, more than 700 Israelis are confirmed to have been killed by the attack. Retaliatory air strikes on Gaza have killed at least 493 Palestinians.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad say they are holding around 130 Israelis captive in Gaza.
The colonel said that Israel actually had information that Hamas and aligned groups were making preparations for an attack.
“This information was evaluated incorrectly. In particular, counterterrorism intelligence units thought that all these weapons used in this attack would be separately put into action in different attacks,” he said.
“They could not make the assessment that kamikaze drones and their motorized parachutes, missiles, and mini drones would be used for a single all-out attack. Although I don’t like to call this a weakness, intelligence made a huge mistake.”
The colonel said that the relative stability in Gaza fostered great military indiscipline in the Israeli troops that served on the border.
“There is no logical explanation I can give to explain the sudden overrun of Israeli towns,” he said. “Maybe you should ask the government, which constantly interferes with the military.”
The colonel added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to attack Gaza with all his might, since politically he has no other choice.
“It will take us at least 10 years to clean up this mess,” he said.
“And for that to happen, Gaza should not cause us any major problems during that time. What to do for this is very clear: a major land and air operation. There is no other option.”
Levent Kemal is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul