First high-level departure over Hamas invasion, massacre

‘I will always carry the pain’: IDF intel chief Aharon Haliva resigns over Oct. 7 failure

In letter to army chief, head of Military Intelligence Directorate says that ‘with authority comes heavy responsibility’; will officially step down once replacement is found

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

File: Commander of the IDF Military Intelligence Aharon Haliva at a conference of the Gazit Institute in Tel Aviv, November 4, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
File: Commander of the IDF Military Intelligence Aharon Haliva at a conference of the Gazit Institute in Tel Aviv, November 4, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Israel’s top military intelligence official announced his resignation on Monday over his role in the failures that led to the Hamas terror group’s October 7 onslaught.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, chief of the Israel Defense Forces’s Military Intelligence Directorate, will step down from the military once a replacement is appointed, the IDF said.

The move was coordinated with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and approved by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the military added.

Once he quits, Haliva will become the first senior officer in the IDF to resign over the October 7 attack. (Another top intelligence general who was planning to step down over the onslaught quit after being diagnosed with cancer.)

Alongside Haliva, other top defense officials have said they bear responsibility for the deadly invasion carried out by Hamas on October 7, including the head of the Shin Bet security agency and the IDF chief of staff. None of them has announced plans to resign as of yet, though many are expected to do so once the security situation stabilizes.

Following the October 7 onslaught, Haliva said he bears responsibility for the failures that allowed Hamas to catch Israel off guard during the brazen attack.

“The Military Intelligence Directorate, under my command, failed to warn of the terror attack carried out by Hamas,” Haliva said on October 17. “We failed in our most important mission, and as the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, I bear full responsibility for the failure.”

However, he said at the time that he was putting off quitting due to the ensuing war in Gaza.

“Now, more than half a year later, alongside the launch of [internal] investigations, I am tendering my resignation,” Haliva wrote in a (Hebrew) letter publicized Monday, in which he also restated that the intelligence directorate, under his leadership, had “failed in our mission.”

He said he carried the weight of “that black day” with him day and night, “and I will always carry the terrible pain of the war.”

Some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on October 7, carrying out a murderous rampage of unprecedented intensity and breadth. The IDF struggled to mount a response, with bases closest to the border overrun and the chain of command seemingly broken amid the chaos.

The onslaught claimed the lives of some 1,200 people in Israel, with another 253 people kidnapped and much of the area devastated. Most victims were civilians.

Israeli soldiers stand near the body of a Palestinian terrorist in Kfar Aza, in the south of Israel, bordering the Gaza Strip on October 10, 2023. (Thomas COEX / AFP)

In his resignation letter addressed to Halevi (Hebrew link), Haliva wrote that “along with authority comes heavy responsibility.”

“The Intelligence Directorate under my command did not fulfill its task. I have carried that black day with me ever since, every day, every night. I will forever bear the terrible pain of the war,” he said in the letter to the IDF chief of staff.

Haliva said he supports the establishment of a commission of inquiry to “be able to investigate and find out in a thorough, in-depth, comprehensive and precise manner all the factors and circumstances that led to the grave events.”

“Everything I did during my service in the IDF was for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” he added.

The military in a statement said Halevi thanked the intelligence officer “for his 38 years of service in the IDF, during which he made significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel as both a combat soldier and commander.”

Head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva holds an operational assessment in the Gaza Strip, December 15, 2023 (IDF)

The timing of Haliva’s resignation comes as the IDF is carrying out investigations into its failures in the lead-up to the Hamas October 7 massacre.

The Intelligence Directorate had split its probes into different periods: a decade before the assault, starting from the end of the 2014 Gaza war; the days before the attack, from October 1 till October 7, with an emphasis on the 36 hours before the onslaught; and the October 7 massacre itself.

Each unit commander in the directorate was probing its actions based on questions determined by the General Staff.

The probes were due to be presented to Halevi by the beginning of June.

Haliva was on vacation in Eilat on October 7. He was reportedly updated at around 3 a.m. that morning regarding “certain signs coming from Gaza” about an imminent attack, but reportedly took no part in consultations in the highest echelons of the IDF regarding those indications and was not available by phone for them.

Haliva was quoted as later telling those around him that, even if he had participated in the consultations, he would have concluded that Hamas was apparently carrying out a drill and that dealing with the matter could wait until the morning. “It wouldn’t have changed the final result in any way,” he reportedly said.

According to a Channel 12 report in December, the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate held a discussion three months before October 7, at which an officer — identified only by their rank and first initial, Brig. Gen. Peh — concluded: “We have tried but have not succeeded; we cannot say how [Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya] Sinwar will act, and therefore commanders in the field should take the necessary precautions.”

It said the conclusions of that discussion were given to Haliva, who ordered that intelligence gathering be stepped up, adding that this indeed happened.

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