'Grave miscalculation': Why were Israel's intelligence services blindsided by Gaza attack?

An Israeli soldier is positioned with troops at the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 9, 2023.
An Israeli soldier is positioned with troops at the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 9, 2023. Copyright AFP
By David Mac Dougall
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

Multiple failures occurred before Hamas' unprecedented assault, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Israeli army told Euronews.


When Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on Israel early Saturday morning, it picked the ‘perfect storm’ of days.

The Sukot festival weekend meant many people were already on holiday, or had returned home to spend Shabbat with their families.

The vaunted Israeli Defence Forces were at “minimum operational capability” with the lowest possible level of forces manning checkpoints and military bases.

Plus the anniversary of the Yom Kippur war - when Israel was blindsided by a lack of intelligence ahead of a 1973 attack from Egyptian and Syrian-lead forces - was a psychologically significant date to launch another major salvo in this decades-long conflict.

“I would say there are probably three failures we can identify at this stage,” says Peter Lerner, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Israeli Defence Forces, and former IDF spokesperson.

He cites an “overconfidence” in the military’s defence mechanisms like the barrier around Gaza, and the Iron Dome missile defence shield which was overwhelmed by thousands of Hamas rockets and proved fallible.

The IDF’s officer training course uses the short, bloody Yom Kippur as a teaching point to take warnings seriously, underscoring how intelligence is supposed to influence actions on the ground.

“It’s clear the Hamas operational plan identified the holiday, the weekend and limited amount of forces and took advantage of that, and that is the similarity with what happened at Yom Kippur,” Lerner tells Euronews. 

Intelligence failures compounded impact of attack

For a country that arguably has the most sophisticated human intelligence and electronic intelligence gathering networks in the region, Israel didn’t see this coming.

“It was a huge surprise for Israel, including in the intelligence gap. Just a few weeks ago senior intelligence officials were saying ‘Hammas is not interested in widespread conflict',” says retired Lt Colonel Lerner.

“This is obviously a grave miscalculation on the part of the intelligence community,” he adds.

As to what comes next, it is likely there will need to be a ground incursion into Gaza, perhaps ‘softened up’ first with airstrikes. 

Although the presence of Israeli hostages in the crowded slums of Gaza is likely to be a deterrent to large-scale military action.

“Recent conflicts that have been sparked by terrorism have been the result of a few casualties, a handful of casualties. We’re talking about a minimum of at least 700 people killed in this attack, unprecedented in Israel’s history,” says Lerner.

Israel forces he says, are being rallied around the Gaza Strip in preparation for what comes next.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Israel-Hamas hostage deal talks in 'final phase' - Qatar

Oil prices surge following Hamas attack on Israel

Israeli army surrounds southern city of Khan Younis