Multiple reports in recent days reveal that Israel was aware that Hamas had built mock Israeli communities to train for a major assault, even ending one massive drill with the words “We have completed the killing of everyone on the kibbutz,” but intelligence warnings were largely dismissed as “fantasy.”
A BBC investigation published Tuesday found that Hamas had been training for the mission for nearly three years and had published multiple explicit images and videos on social media.
The videos show Hamas training in mock Israeli communities, going room to room killing people, blowing their way through gates painted yellow like those in border kibbutzim, and taking civilians and soldiers hostage. One of the practice sites was less than a mile from the border with Israel.
The investigation also identified 10 different Palestinian terror groups that participated in the joint training exercises and noted that six of the groups had published footage on social media.
A series of emails leaked to Hebrew media in the last week indicate that intelligence soldiers on the ground were very aware of the threats, but their warnings were ultimately unheeded.
A veteran soldier in the IDF’s prestigious 8200 signal intelligence unit sent explicit warnings to senior officers before the October 7 atrocities that Hamas was preparing a highly organized and meticulously planned mass invasion of Israel.
According to Channel 12’s investigative news program “Uvda,” broadcast Monday, a senior and experienced noncommissioned officer, identified only by her first initial “Vav,” sent an email on July 6 to her superiors with the subject line “Death in the kibbutz at any price.”
The warnings accurately predicted the events of October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas fighters breached the Gaza border in several places and overran military bases, communities in southern Israel, and a music festival, brutally killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking 240 hostages.
The warnings were largely dismissed and did not make it to Military Intelligence chiefs. The exposé reinforces several others from the past month that revealed other information the IDF had on a possible Hamas invasion and failed to act upon.
In the email, Vav wrote that “at the end of May there was an insane exercise of two Nukhba companies that was attended by a series of senior Hamas leaders,” referring to the terror group’s elite commando unit that spearheaded the assault.
She said the daylong exercise included fighters on jeeps and motorcycles who practiced trying to shoot down Israeli aircraft and helicopters.
Vav also described how they had constructed a mockup of a kibbutz, even going so far as to give it a name, and practiced raising their flag over the community synagogue and secretariat.
In addition, other forces practiced attacking and capturing an IDF training base. “They were given instructions to kill the whole team,” she wrote.
The Haaretz daily reported on the same exercises and email warnings and noted that according to intercepts, the terror group concluded the exercise by declaring, “We have completed the killing of everyone on the kibbutz.”
As the email made its way up the chain of command, several of her superiors and colleagues praised the intelligence gathered, with some even calling it “gold.”
On July 12, an unnamed senior intelligence officer responded. While he too praised her work, agreeing that the exercise “looked insane,” he ultimately dismissed it.
“This scenario of the exercise described by the NCO is a complete fantasy. We need to differentiate between what [Hamas] is doing for bravado and show, and what is real,” he wrote.
Vav responded to the email, saying she “categorically rejects the possibility that this is a fantasy scenario. I can’t imagine that this is just to practice an imaginary situation and raise morale. I believe this scenario is very real, particularly because Hamas has the military capabilities.”
She added that this is “an operation plan without a specific timetable; in other words — we won’t be able to a give a warning in time” and cautioned that this was a strategic event that was “designed to start a war.”
She even described Hamas leaders giving orders to “prepare to kill the Jewish pigs” and “prepare to go in and cut off their heads.”
“They are preparing, with great forces, for a large event. This isn’t just a demonstration of abilities, this is a preparation for the real thing,” she concluded.
According to Channel 12, despite the dire warnings, the emails never reached the head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen Aharon Haliva, who has told colleagues he had no idea of the existence of the emails.
The email leak adds to a series of reported intelligence failures.
Surveillance soldiers from the Combat Intelligence Corps who survived the Hamas attack on their base in Nahal Oz recounted to the Kan public broadcaster in October that intelligence officials had dismissed their reports of unusual activity on the Gaza border as routine and unimportant.
For at least three months prior to October 7, the soldiers recalled reporting information on Hamas operatives conducting training sessions multiple times a day, digging holes and placing explosives along the border.
However, when presenting the evidence to their senior officers, they were ignored, and the information was not passed further up the chain of command.
Last week, Kan reported that before October 7, the IDF had come into possession of a Hamas terror manual that described how to conquer the Gaza border region in southern Israel.
The report said that the plans detailed in the manual were passed along to senior ranks in the IDF who dismissed them on the grounds that Hamas did not have the operational capabilities to carry out such an attack.
Responding to the reports, the IDF said it was “operating and fighting in these very days against the murderous terror organization Hamas in the Gaza strip. All of the [IDF’s] commanders and soldiers are focused on this mission alone in order to complete the goals of the war. When the war is finished, a detailed and thorough investigation will be conducted clarifying every last detail.”