The head of the Shin Bet security agency said Monday he was personally responsible for the lack of an early warning for Hamas’s murderous October 7 attack on southern Israel, as Palestinian terrorists in Gaza launched fresh rocket barrages at Tel Aviv and the newly-formed cabinet for managing the war met with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Rocket sirens were twice activated in Tel Aviv and surrounding cities during the evening, marking the third and fourth times the major metropolitan area in central Israel was targeted on Monday. The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it had not received reports of impacts or casualties.
Alerts were also activated Monday evening in a number of southern towns, with the Sderot municipality reporting two rocket impacts. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Sderot and the surrounding areas have been attacked repeatedly since being targeted in the surprise assault led by Hamas on October 7, in which over 1,300 people were killed and some 200 taken into Gaza as captives.
“Despite a series of actions we carried out, unfortunately, on [October 7] we were unable to generate a sufficient warning that would allow the attack to be thwarted,” Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar wrote in a missive to members of the agency.
“As the one who heads the organization, the responsibility for this is mine,” Bar said. “There will be time for investigations. Now we are fighting.”
Several hours before the attack, the defense establishment identified unusual movement in the Gaza Strip, leading to a late-night phone call between senior officials, but the signs were largely dismissed.
Still, according to Hebrew-language media reports, Bar went to the agency’s headquarters and ordered a small security team deployed to the Gaza border, anticipating a potential small-scale attack.
At least 10 members of the Shin Bet were killed during the attacks on October 7, according to the agency.
“We are at war, not a round [of fighting]. A round is won with a victory image and calm; a war ends with a decisive victory and a change of the situation. There is no border limit, no time limit. [We’ll go] all the way,” Bar added.
During a briefing Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces said the military has been carrying out scans on both sides of the Gaza border in search of bodies and evidence that could lead to further information on missing Israelis and foreigners taken in the Hamas attack.
“Forces are scanning for missing people on both sides of the border, trying to complete the effort to find the missing,” said IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
Hagari said the IDF’s top priority remains to kill Hamas terrorists, “especially those who took part in the horrible attack.”
He said ground forces were carrying out intense exercises in the assembly areas, ahead of Israel’s expected ground offensive in the Strip.
The IDF also continued to launch strikes in Gaza, saying it killed a regional head of Hamas intelligence in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The IDF did not immediately provide further details on the strike, including the name of the senior Hamas member or where the strike took place.
The military published a series of videos showing strikes in the Gaza Strip, including the one targeting the senior Hamas member, and on tunnels used by Hamas terrorists and a rocket-launching squad.
The IDF says it struck and killed the head of Hamas's general intelligence in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. pic.twitter.com/c1nun5Dwds
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) October 16, 2023
Earlier, the IDF released footage showing the Navy’s most advanced warships carrying out their first-ever strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The clips showed the INS “Magen” and INS “Oz” Sa’ar 6-class corvettes striking a Hamas weapons manufacturing site, a military post, and an observation post belonging to the terror group’s naval forces.
Three of the Navy’s four Sa’ar 6-class corvettes were declared operational by the IDF in recent months.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says at least 2,670 Palestinians have been killed and 9,600 wounded in Israeli retaliatory bombardments since the fighting erupted. Israel say it is striking terror targets in the Strip, which are embedded within the civilian population.
It has urged residents of northern Gaza to head south in recent days, as it prepares to intensify its operations in the Gaza City area.
IDF releases footage showing the Navy’s INS “Magen” and INS “Oz” Sa’ar 6-class corvettes carrying out their first-ever strikes in the Gaza Strip, attacking a Hamas weapons manufacturing site, a military post, and an observation post belonging to the terror group’s naval forces. pic.twitter.com/5inLVgMlYQ
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) October 16, 2023
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where they were forced to take shelter during the talks, due to rocket fire toward the city.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the top American diplomat to expect a long but successful campaign against Hamas.
“Let me tell you, Mr. Secretary, this will be a long war. The price will be high, but we are going to win — for Israel, for the Jewish people, and for the values that both [our] countries believe in,” Gallant told Blinken during a press conference.
Before the meeting with Blinken, Netanyahu spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their first call since the Hamas attack. Putin has been extremely critical of Israel in his statements since the onslaught, even making implicit comparisons between Israel and the German army in World War II.
According to the Kremlin, Putin spoke earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and was slated to call Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later in the day as well.
Netanyahu’s office also said Monday that he had had a phone call the day before with United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss “regional developments,” despite the ongoing fighting.
Following the Hamas massacres, the UAE — which normalized ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords — condemned the kidnapping of Israeli hostages in a break with other regional players, while later announcing humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that Israel is determined to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and is making every effort to prevent harm to those not involved,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said, adding the two agreed to remain in touch.
Netanyahu also held a one-on-one meeting with Blinken earlier Monday.
According to the State Department, Blinken updated Netanyahu about his shuttle diplomacy across the Middle East over the past four days aimed at building a coalition against Hamas, preventing malign actors from joining the war against Israel and ensuring access of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and securing the release of the hostages in Gaza.
Blinken “underlined his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’s terrorism and reaffirmed US determination to provide the Israeli government with what it needs to protect its citizens,” the State Department readout said.
Blinken also met President Isaac Herzog, with the State Department saying he reiterated US support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The secretary reaffirmed the US commitment to provide Israel with whatever military assistance it needs to protect itself, according to the US readout, which added that Blinken also discussed international coordination efforts to ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza as well as efforts to secure the release of the hostages being held by terrorists in the Strip.
The meetings and phone calls came as Israel readies for a likely ground offensive in Gaza, massing forces along the border in preparation for what the army has said would be a land, air, and sea attack involving a “significant ground operation.”
Lazar Berman and agencies contributed to this report.