Israeli state media reported that the military received a warning about a potential Hamas attack three days before a series of rocket attacks and armed squads killed many people. Israel chose not to take action based on this warning. The reason given for this decision was that Egypt’s warning didn’t specify the scale of the attack. Some reports also suggested that Israel was preoccupied with settlers in the West Bank and downplayed Egypt’s warning.
Chief of the UK’s foreign intelligence service from 2014 to 2020, Sir Alex Younger, claimed that “institutional complacency” in Israel allowed Hamas fighters to execute their October 7 strike.
Furthermore, two unnamed Israeli officials were cited as saying that the information provided in the warning was not sufficient to take any action because it lacked specific details about the nature of the impending attack.
Egypt has not officially commented on the reports about offering an early warning, but it has close ties with Israel and often acts as a mediator in their conflicts with Gaza.
Amid these developments, Egypt has closed its Rafeh border crossing with Gaza. Israel’s military strikes in the densely populated Palestinian territory, home to 2.3 million civilians, have raised concerns in Egypt. Cairo has urged Israel to ensure the safe passage of civilians instead of pushing them to flee into Egyptian territory.
Initially, when there were rumors that Israel might have received a warning about Hamas’ strike, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office denied Egypt’s claims regarding intelligence inputs. An Egyptian official stated that Israel had been warned about “something big” about to happen, even though no further details were provided.
However, on Wednesday, a United States Senator confirmed that intelligence had indeed been shared. Republican Michael McCaul of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee mentioned, “We know Egypt warned Israel three days prior. The question is, ‘at what level’.”
This back-and-forth between Israel, Egypt, and the US regarding intelligence underscores the confusion that followed Hamas’ attack. Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system, which failed to intercept many of the estimated 5,000 rockets fired by Hamas. Concerns have also been directed at Israel’s intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet.
Israel has responded to Hamas’ attacks with a significant military operation, including a blockade on essential supplies like food, fuel, medicine, and water to the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Energy Minister, Israel Kantz, declared that no humanitarian aid would be allowed until Israeli abductees held by Hamas were returned.
The conflict is likely to intensify, with reports suggesting a potential ground attack by Israel, although it’s complicated by the densely populated urban terrain and Hamas’ network of underground tunnels, which pose risks to hostages. An invasion would result in heavy casualties on both sides and raise questions about Israel’s exit strategy for the conflict.
1,100 Palestinians have been murdered in Israeli retaliation strikes on Gaza, including 326 children, while 5,339 others have been injured. According to the UN, more than 260,000 Palestinians have left their homes in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing intense Israeli air, land, and sea bombardment.