Operation Guardian of the Walls: Israel’s double intelligence failure

Lod Israel

For several days now, a war has been going on between the State of Israel and the Hamas organization that controls the Gaza Strip. The confrontation began after unrest broke out among Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, who raised allegations of Israeli damage to the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In firing missiles at Israel, Hamas tries to portray itself as protecting the sanctuaries of Islam in Jerusalem. In doing so, it seeks to strengthen its political position in Judea and Samaria against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is leading the Palestinian Authority. Since then, Israel has been using airstrikes against targets in Gaza, while Hamas has been firing hundreds of missiles at Israel daily. Israel is desperately trying to undermine Hamas’ military and operational capabilities, including armaments factories, while also eliminating senior commanders of the organization.

Hamas’ missile attacks managed to surprise Israel. Israeli intelligence (the Israeli Military Intelligence, known as IMI, and the Israeli Security Agency, ISA) previously estimated that Hamas’ goal was to maintain the status quo, and was not ready to initiate attacks against Israel. Not only did Israeli intelligence err in assessing Hamas’ intentions, but Hamas Q Quotesurprised observers with its range of weapons, such as long-range missiles with a reach that is in excess of 150 miles. This constitutes a strategic surprise for Israel. So far (May 13, 2021), Hamas has fired about 1,500 missiles at Israel, most of which have been intercepted by Israel’s air defense system called the Iron Dome.

At the same time, extensive riots broke out within Israel between Palestinian Israeli Arabs and Israeli far-right groups. The attacks have spread throughout the country, and the Israeli police appear unable to control them. The ISA is responsible for monitoring terrorism-related developments in the area of political subversion, including assessing the intentions of Israeli Arabs and the level of threat posed by these intentions. It appears that the ISA, was completely surprised by recent developments. The spontaneous mobilization of Israeli Arabs stems from fears that Israel intends to harm the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is also a form of identification with their brethren in the Gaza Strip. At present, the government of Israel has not managed to restrain the mobilization of the Israeli Arabs.

In conclusion, Israeli intelligence demonstrates two blind spots. One concerns Hamas’ intentions and offensive capabilities. The other concerns misreading the intentions and degree of threat to public order in Israel by Israeli Arabs. This is why the military clash between Israel and Hamas, as well as the riots by Israeli Arabs, have not yet ended.

Dr. Avner Barnea is research fellow at the National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa in Israel. He served as a senior officer in the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 14 May 2021 | Permalink

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4 Responses to Operation Guardian of the Walls: Israel’s double intelligence failure

  1. John says:

    This article reaches a conclusion without citing to a single source.

    From my understanding, this article is completely inaccurate and the Israel Intelligence as a whole was well aware of this unfolding and are in fact maximizing the rocket attack “opportunity” strategically.

    Israel’s Optimizing Opportunity on Hamas Soft Targets
    For example, Israel’s first actions were to destroy a wish list of soft targets or mixed targets with buildings including banks and offices, that Israel say as empowering Hamas in civic life. Source 1 (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/gaza-residential-tower-collapses-israeli-airstrike-witnesses-say-2021-05-11/) Source 2 (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/gaza-residential-tower-collapses-israeli-airstrike-witnesses-say-2021-05-11/)
    Additionally, Israel is prepared enough to warning civilians and arguably minimize or lower civilian loss. Source (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/taking-call-gaza-before-israel-takes-out-building-2021-05-14/)

    Israel’s Optimizing Opportunity on Hamas Hard (Military) Targets
    In examples of preparedness of hard targets, “Israeli forces killed 16 Hamas figures, including a senior commander and weapons developers, in an air strike on a command post of the Palestinian Islamist faction in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.” https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-says-kills-16-hamas-figures-including-senior-staff-strike-2021-05-12/. This is one of numerous strategic military successes Israel is rushing to obtain before the International community steps in.

    Additionally, this is observed as a strategic move by Israel to slow the discussion on evictions, two-state solution etc. and refocus the narrative of Israel being a state under siege by a disorganized terrorist organization. For example, “The Israeli military said 200 of more than 1,000 rockets fired by Gaza factions had fallen short, potentially causing some Palestinian civilian casualties.” https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/35-killed-gaza-3-israel-violence-escalates-2021-05-12/

    Furthermore, Israel does not appear in a rush based on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements of needing more time to fully deter Hama. And Israel appears to be prepared enough to be taking their time to limit civilian causalities to less than 50% in a high density area with long range attacks only. “At least 119 people have been killed since Monday in Gaza, including 31 children and 21 women” (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-fires-artillery-into-gaza-amid-persistent-palestinian-rocket-attacks-2021-05-13/).

    Your conclusion could be correct in spite of this evidence, and it would had been great to had read your sources and evaluate such. For these reasons with these sources I concluded completely opposite to this article. Israel intelligence suffered no failure.

  2. Avner Barnea says:

    My article is looking into two matters alone- the misunderstanding of Hamas’s intentions and as far as I know – it is very accurate. Secondly – regarding the uprising of the local Israeli Arabs – it is very accurate.! and surprising and unexpected!

  3. Avner Barnea says:

    Please not that I’m referring to two intelligence failures – one misreading the intentions of Hamas to attack Israel and the other to the internal prior by Israeli Arabs. On both, I have all reasons to believe that my assessments are accurate.

  4. John says:

    Thank you for your response but I believe you are missing my point. Do you have any sources to demonstrate the assertions contained in this article? For example, could you comment with sources of articles discussing either reports, quotes, and/or assessments by Israel military or political departments/agencies that demonstrated, “Hamas surprised observers with its range of weapons, such as long-range missiles with a reach that is in excess of 150 miles.” Which observers were surprised? What did they say? Or perhaps easier to demonstrate with written sources, what did the observers state previously that demonstrate their undertanding was that Hamas lacked such long-range missiles.

    My fundamental point is this article reaches a multiple-step conclusion without citing to a single source. What are “all the reasons [you have] to believe that [your] assessments are accurate”?

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