Hamas conducted a years-long campaign to fool Israel into thinking the group did not desire armed conflict and could be placated with economic incentives to maintain relative calm, a source close to the terror organization told the Reuters news agency Monday.
“Hamas gave Israel the impression that it was not ready for a fight,” the source told the agency.
“Hamas used an unprecedented intelligence tactic to mislead Israel over the last months, by giving a public impression that it was not willing to go into a fight or confrontation with Israel while preparing for this massive operation,” the source said.
The border with Gaza had been relatively quiet in recent months. Hamas sat out a deadly round of fighting between Israel and the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad earlier this year.
Hamas gunmen breached Israel’s border on Saturday, killing more than 700 people and taking at least another 100 hostages into Gaza during the unprecedented rampage. The terror group has also fired thousands of rockets at Israel.
The source said that as part of its preparations, the terror organization built a mock Israeli community to train for the assault in which gunmen went house-to-house in border towns Saturday, killing residents.
“Israel surely saw them but they were convinced that Hamas wasn’t keen on getting into a confrontation,” the source said.
The source said that Hamas convinced Israel that it was more interested in ensuring Gazans had work permits that allowed them to enter Israel, where they earned higher salaries than they would in the enclave.
“Hamas was able to build a whole image that it was not ready for a military adventure against Israel,” the source said.
The source said that many leaders of the terror group were not told of the planned attack in order to prevent it leaking to Israel. In addition, the approximately 1,000 terrorists involved in the devastating assault were not told exactly what they were training for.
An unnamed Israeli security source told the news outlet that the security services had fallen for the ruse.
“They caused us to think they wanted money,” the Israeli source said. “And all the time they were involved in exercises or drills until they ran riot.”
The report said that Hamas’s apparent refusal to become involved in recent rounds of fighting, even as Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israel, was part of the subterfuge.
Former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror told Reuters that some countries allied with the Jewish state had bought into the lie, telling Jerusalem that Hamas was showing “more responsibility.”
“We stupidly began to believe that it was true,” he said. “So, we made a mistake. We are not going to make this mistake again and we will destroy Hamas, slowly but surely.”
The source said the attack was carried out in four stages. First, a barrage of some 3,000 rockets was fired at Israel.
At the same time, a cell flew hang gliders across the border and secured the area, allowing an elite terror unit to breach Israel’s fortified security barrier.
The source said explosives were used to breach the barrier and the first terrorists went through on motorbikes. Then bulldozers were brought in to widen the gap, allowing jeeps to drive through.
The source said a “commando unit” of terrorists then attacked the headquarters of the IDF’s southern Gaza division “and jammed its communications, preventing personnel from calling commanders or each other.”
The terrorists then went on their murderous rampage through the border towns and military base, as well as a crowded rave party, slaughtering hundreds and taking at least 100 hostages back to Gaza.
An unnamed Israeli security source said that troops near the Gaza border were not at full strength because some had been moved to the West Bank — the report said “to protect Israeli settlers” amid a surge of violence there.
“[Hamas] exploited that,” the source said.
The Reuters report of the long-planned secret training for the attack was backed up by Channel 13 news, which published a quote from an interrogation of a Hamas terrorist who participated in the attack and was held in Israel.
“It was five hours before they fired at us,” he said, of the area that he was attacking. “We were ready with 1,000 fighters, we breached the fence in 15 places.”
“We were shocked that the IDF was not waiting for us,” he said.
“We led a family on foot to the Gaza Strip for two hours without interruption,” he said.
“We have been preparing for over a year. We were encouraged by the demonstrations in Israel,” the terrorist said, apparently referring to the protests against the government’s judicial overhaul. The security establishment has long warned that the government’s plan had impacted the military’s operational abilities and harmed Israel’s deterrence.
The source said that the rioting in recent weeks by Gazans at the border fence were a “deception.”
“The operation exceeded all expectations,” he said, adding that he was particularly referring to the number of Israelis kidnapped and taken into Gaza.
Channel 13 said the trucks used by the terrorists were crammed full of sophisticated military equipment, to a level that would have provided weaponry for further terrorists to come in for further waves of attacks.
Meanwhile, a Sunday report in the Wall Street Journal claimed that Iran helped Hamas plan its attack on Israel during a meeting in Beirut last week, and has been working on it for weeks.
The report cited unnamed senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, and said plans were ongoing since August, and several meetings were held in Beirut in which members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp participated.
However, the IDF on Monday denied there was currently evidence of Iranian involvement.
“Iran is a major player but we can’t yet say if it was involved in the planning or training,” said IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.