The top commanders of the Israel Defense Forces were aware, in the hours, days and months that preceded the Hamas-led devastating October 7 onslaught in southern Israel, that the Palestinian terror group was drilling intensively for a planned large-scale invasion, and the Hamas leader even said publicly that this was his plan — but the military still didn’t act and even diverted forces away from the Gaza front, believing that this was empty boasting and that the terror group wasn’t interested in war, according to Hebrew media reports Monday.
In the latest evidence of information and assessments that should have enabled the Israeli military leadership to prevent the mass invasion, Channel 12 reported Monday evening that the intelligence officer of the Gaza Division prepared a presentation in July 2022 setting out “The Mass Invasion Plan of Hamas.”
One diagram from the presentation showed some 20 elite Nukhba Hamas terror squads invading southern Israel from Gaza. The presentation said the terror squads would be accompanied by engineering teams to breach the border fence and defenses in multiple places. The document reportedly included the sentence: “This invasion constitutes the gravest threat that IDF forces are facing in the defense [of Israel].”
Channel 12 further reported that 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 the head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Aharon Haliva, who ordered that intelligence gathering be stepped up, adding that this indeed happened.
On October 1, furthermore, the commander of the Gaza Division ordered a situational assessment, which found a “sharp increase in drills by Nukhba forces.” Six Hamas battalions were drilling once or twice a week, the report on that assessment said. It specified which battalions were drilling, including several in northern Gaza and one in Khan Younis in the south.
Nonetheless, according to the report, the intelligence officer of the division summed up: “In the tension between the economic benefits for Hamas and the continued disturbances [that were taking place at the Gaza border], it seems that at the moment things are heading toward an arrangement and a calming of the disturbances.”
On the night between October 6 and 7, hours before the early morning assault, an email was sent from an IDF base on the Gaza border describing “certain signs coming from Gaza” about an imminent attack. At the same time, the Shin Bet security agency also saw signs that something was up.
At around 1:30 a.m. on October 7, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s office manager was updated about this by the Shin Bet, and then by the IDF general in charge of the Southern Command. At around 3:30 a.m., Halevi was awakened. He asked to arrange a telephone consultation in order to make a situational assessment. That session took place some 90 minutes later.
The IDF’s operations chief arranged his own consultation ahead of Halevi’s, found the same signs of an imminent attack and sought explanations as to whether it was a drill or a strategic operation against Israel in the coming hours. That consultation concluded that no definitive explanation could be reached, and sought additional intelligence from the IDF’s 8200 signal intelligence unit.
When they had their consultation, Halevi, the head of IDF operations and the Southern Command general were updated on the signs of an imminent attack. Halevi asked for more information and ordered that the Israel Air Force be updated. He also ordered that the intelligence information be checked — including from a perspective skeptical of the prevailing assumption that Hamas was not interested in war.
This, said Channel 12, may have marked the first crack in the conception that Hamas was deterred, but it was not sufficient for Halevi to have ordered preparations for a major incident.
Three drones and a combat helicopter were mobilized.
Haliva, the head of the Intelligence Directorate, was not involved in these October 6-7 consultations. He was on vacation in Eilat. He was updated around 3 a.m. about the worrying signs from Gaza, but took no part in the consultations and wasn’t 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 it was apparently a drill and dealing with the matter could wait until the morning. “It wouldn’t have changed the final result in any way,” he reportedly said.
Israel had multiple sources of information on Hamas’s drills and other preparations for an assault in the weeks ahead of October 7, reportedly including a 2022 Hamas attack plan.
Channel 12 also reported Monday that a TV drama series broadcast last year on Hamas TV that featured terrorists infiltrating Israel was publicly hailed by Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar as “an inseparable part of what we are preparing.”
Hamas TV broadcast the series during Ramadan in late spring 2022, the report said. It dramatized an attack on Israel featuring the use of white pickup trucks, the disabling of Israeli communications, and the targeting of kibbutzim and IDF bases — including the Re’im base where the IDF Gaza Division is located. It also showed soldiers being kidnapped, and the establishment of a Palestinian base at an IDF base.
Along with footage from the Hamas show, the Israeli network showed a clip from a televised award ceremony held in Gaza later in 2022, at which Sinwar handed out prizes to the show’s producers.
“This series is an inseparable part of what we are preparing — the great preparations we are making with our brothers in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” he was shown saying, referring to Hamas’s military wing. Sinwar cited “the weaponry that they are producing” and their “intelligence gathering.”
Hamas’s military wing, he said, “is absolutely planning for the liberation and return.”
Separately Monday, the Kan public broadcaster reported that two companies of troops from the IDF’s Commando Brigade, which were deployed to the Gaza border during the Jewish holiday season in September and October, were sent to the West Bank just two days before the October 7 massacre.
The 100 or so soldiers were redeployed to the West Bank’s Huwara, the report said, following a shooting attack there against an Israeli family.
The commando soldiers had been deployed to the Gaza border by the orders of the Operations Directorate, and they were not part of the regular forces securing the border, according to Kan.
The IDF has previously said forces were not diverted away from the Gaza border to the West Bank ahead of the October 7 onslaught.
A large number of troops had already been operating in the West Bank amid a rise in terror over the past two years.
The IDF has said it will investigate the circumstances that led to Hamas’s attack after the ongoing war’s end.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.