The military’s vaunted 8200 signals intelligence unit was not operational near the Gaza border on the morning of October 7 due to a two-year-old decision to reduce personnel and halt operations overnight and on weekends, a new report alleged Monday.
The move, detailed by the Kan public broadcaster, left the army without a key asset for wiretapping and code decryption, possibly adding to the confusion and chaos that delayed an effective military response to the terror onslaught last month. On that Saturday morning, some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the Gaza border into southern Israel, massacring at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, across more than 20 different communities and seizing some 240 hostages. An estimated 360 people were mowed down at an outdoor music festival close to the border, and families were slaughtered in their homes as they burned down around them.
According to Kan, following private consultations, a high-ranking officer within the Israel Defense Force’s Intelligence Corps reduced the unit’s manpower two years ago after concluding that intelligence-gathering methods utilized by 8200 would not help detect a threat from Gaza in real-time.
“An alert in the Gaza arena will not come from the classic sources,” the officer was quoted saying.
The decision significantly downgraded the unit’s operational activities in the Gaza border region and ceased operations entirely overnight and on weekends.
According to the report, while Unit 8200 alone couldn’t have prevented the October 7 attack had it been operational during the early hours of the morning, its members would have been able to provide a clearer picture of what was unfolding during the first hours of the onslaught and could have potentially located Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces as they moved across southern Israel, under the cover of thousands of rockets, slaughtering people indiscriminately as they went.
In the weeks following October 7, several reports have attested that senior IDF officials, including those from 8200, ignored warnings from subordinates regarding suspicious activity along the Gaza border.
A report published by Channel 12 last Thursday alleged that soldiers in the unit warned that Hamas was preparing a highly organized and meticulously planned mass invasion of Israel. In response, the soldiers were told that their concerns were a “fantasy.”
A non-commissioned officer in Unit 8200 put together a report from an array of raw intelligence data detailing a scenario that essentially predicted the October 7 invasion, Channel 12 said.
She, together with a junior officer, also pointed to a Hamas drill a month before the Hamas attack, noting that it included preparations for a mass invasion with multiple entry points into Israel.
The two presented their concerns to a senior IDF officer — although not one from 8200 — who dismissed their warnings as “fantasies” and failed to act on the information, Channel 12 said.
Backing up the claims published by Channel 12, Kan added that the non-commissioned officer warned that the Hamas drill included the use of vehicles to carry out the attack and that the terrorists practiced taking over Israeli towns.
The NCO also warned that the assault Hamas was planning was on such a large scale that it could spark an all-out war in the region, an estimate that turned out to be partially correct.
Following the October 7 massacre, Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip and launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground offensive, the first since 2014 and on a far greater scale, to carry out its goals.
In addition to the reports regarding 8200, surveillance soldiers from the Combat Intelligence Corps who survived the Hamas attack on their base in Nahal Oz recounted to Kan in October that intelligence officials had dismissed their reports of unusual activity on the Gaza border as routine and unimportant.
For at least three months prior to October 7, the soldiers recalled reporting information on Hamas operatives conducting training sessions multiple times a day, digging holes and placing explosives along the border.
However, when presenting the evidence to their senior officers, they were ignored, and the information was not passed further up the chain of command.
The reports of Israeli intelligence failures prior to October 7 appear to corroborate a claim published by Reuters news agency on October 9 that Hamas intentionally deceived Israel, conducting a years-long campaign to fool the country into thinking it could be placated with economic incentives to maintain relative calm.