Military chief orders start of internal probes into pre-October 7 failures

Investigations by unit commanders will aim at drawing operational conclusions for troops, steering clear of politicians; expected to take several months with fighting ongoing

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

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with commanders of the 99th Infantry Division in the Gaza Strip in this photo published on January 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with commanders of the 99th Infantry Division in the Gaza Strip in this photo published on January 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces will begin probing operational failures in the lead-up to the Hamas terror group’s October 7 massacre, after Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi decided Monday to not wait until after fighting ends to look into what went wrong, The Times of Israel has learned.

The probes, set to begin in the next few days, are aimed at drawing operational conclusions for the military, and will not look into the policies of the political leadership, avoiding a fight with government leaders who have insisted that investigations wait until after the end of Israel’s war against Hamas.

Commanders of units seen as having a role in failing to notice Hamas preparations or adequately prepare for Hamas’s October 7 onslaught will investigate what went wrong and how such blunders can be avoided in the future.

Included are the Operations Directorate, Southern Command, Gaza Division, and Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 8200, which deals with signals intelligence.

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.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and winning the freedom of hostages, over 100 of whom remain in captivity.

Gazans celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the broken Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Khan Younis, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Yousef Masoud)

The investigations are internal and 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.

In late January, Halevi said the external investigation would only be launched once the internal probes were completed.

The probes decided on Monday are expected to last several months, and will be carried out concurrent with ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip. Any major developments in the war are expected to slow the pace of the probes.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman also has plans to investigate the army’s failures as well as the conduct of the government, although Halevi has requested that this also be put on hold for now.

In a letter to Englman, Halevi warned that “the audit will divert the attention of the commanders from the fighting, will damage operational investigation ability, and will not allow drawing necessary lessons to achieve the goals of the war.”

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released February 20, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Along with announcing the probes, Halevi also ordered that appointments for senior commanders resume after they had been on pause since October 7, according to information received by The Times of Israel.

In the coming weeks, the chief of staff plans to promote officers to the ranks of brigadier generals and colonels and post them as division commanders, brigade commanders, and senior department heads.

At a further date, discussions will be held for the appointments of lieutenant colonels and majors.

The IDF will not be appointing new commanders to roles considered sensitive and related to the probes.

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