IDF lays out plans for internal review of failures ahead of October 7

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

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

The IDF today sent out protocols to commanders on how their respective units are to carry out internal investigations into the military’s failures in the lead-up to the Hamas terror group’s October 7 massacre, the army announces.

The investigations will focus on a timeframe starting from the March 2018 Hamas-led Gaza border riots until October 10, 2023, the point when Israeli troops re-established control of southern Israel.

The findings are expected to be presented by commanders to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi by the beginning of June, according to the army.

IDF troops stand atop a tank in a field near the kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. (Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP)

Units seen as having a role in the failure to notice Hamas preparations or adequately prepare for the terror group’s October 7 onslaught will investigate the following four main subjects:

  • The development of the IDF’s perception of Gaza, with an emphasis on the border, starting in 2018. This examination will also include a look at the army’s conception of its own defenses and its operational plans against threats in Gaza.
  • The IDF’s intelligence assessments of Hamas from 2018 until the outbreak of the war. This examination will look at the military’s threat scenarios, the development of the IDF’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, and how the intelligence was audited, including the so-called devil’s advocate unit which is tasked with questioning IDF assessments and conceptions.
  • The intelligence and decision-making process on the eve of October 7, as well as the days leading up to it. This examination will look at all the decisions that were made at all ranks to clarify what went wrong.
  • The period between October 7 and 10, when troops restored control over all communities and army bases in southern Israel which had been invaded by Hamas. This examination will analyze the battles that took place, and look into each unit’s command and control, formations, and orders given.

The IDF will also probe five more subjects: Major battles amid the fighting; the mobilization of reservists and the military’s logistical response; long-term planning, including munition stocks and spare parts for weapons and vehicles; the handling of the dead from October 7; and the military’s continued functioning.

In a missive sent to troops today, Halevi says the internal investigations are to help the IDF learn.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (center) and senior IDF officials meet in northern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We experienced difficult incidents at the beginning of the fighting, we failed to protect civilians, a task of utmost importance. If we do not courageously analyze what we have done, we will find it difficult to learn and improve, we will find it difficult to stand up to the citizens of Israel and say that we have looked into it and learned and will know how to protect them better,” he writes.

The IDF says the internal probes are “necessary” for the military to be able to improve amid the ongoing fighting, as well as work to return displaced Israelis from northern Israel amid daily attacks by Hezbollah.

The investigations are not related to planned external probes of the army’s conduct in the lead-up to October 7, which are currently on hold.

Plans for the independent review were met with protests from government leaders, who apparently feared they could be criticized.

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