Israel at the receiving end The Excelsior 18 Oct 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Israel at the receiving end

Israel at the receiving end The Excelsior 18 Oct 2023

          The Israel-Gaza war displayed innovations in deception, employment of force and other tools of war. Mossad and the CIA, which jointly monitor Gaza communications, with most advanced intelligence gathering networks, alongside agents embedded deep within the Hamas, were caught napping. Israel was also caught off-guard in 1973, but technology has changed since then. It emerges that both intelligence agencies were complacent.

They had jointly evaluated that Hamas lacks capabilities to wage war. Jake Sullivan had stated just a week prior, ‘The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.’ The Hamas leadership, aware it was being monitored, played along and gave adversarial intelligence agencies just what they wanted to hear.

There were no electronic communications discussing operational plans emanating from Gaza. The Hamas rank and file were not briefed on the operation till the last moment. All monitored communications only gathered that Hamas was unprepared for war.

          Hamas initially employed cheap drones to knock off technologically advanced surveillance and communication equipment along Israel’s modernized fence and wall separating Gaza from Israel.  This rendered Israel’s defence systems redundant.  Subsequently in a coordinated attack they launched thousands of missiles, used paragliders to overfly the fence and employed bulldozers to break through it.

The defensive wall and fence possessed technological features, including sensors and mounted machine guns, designed to automatically fire at the slightest movement. Their destruction enabled Hamas troops to arrive rapidly into camps and settlements in depth before Israeli’s reacted.

It also led to Israeli troops being blind and mute to inputs flowing from higher echelons. With increased dependence on technology, the Israeli army had become complacent and even reduced troops securing borders. Thus, in camps hit by Hamas, Israeli soldiers were still sleeping when they entered the barracks. It implies that no matter how advanced technology is, it will have shortcomings which can be exploited by a determined adversary.

Hamas had studied the Israeli pattern of defending their borders in detail, understood their weaknesses and then crafted their attack plan. Its troops infiltrated into Israel using every possible means of transport including motorcycles, cars, dune buggies etc. Capturing people of all nationalities and transporting them back into Gaza was part of a bargaining strategy and had been enmeshed into the plan.   

The Hamas had also monitored the defences of Kibbutz’s and military camps located close to the border employing its agents who were permitted into Israel as part of the 20,000-labour granted permits by the Netanyahu government. It was this which provided them initial success. They entered over 20 Israeli towns, Kibbutz and military camps undetected, captured military equipment and killed residents at random. The Israel army was caught unawares. Survivors in some cases recognized few attackers as being part of their work force. Trusting those seeking your end is a cardinal error which Netanyahu made.    

In the Russo-Ukraine war, social media became a tool of war. The west blocked Russia from their controlled social media networks and the world was only fed pro-Ukrainian propaganda. Thus, Russian actions were depicted as brutal and they were termed the aggressors ignoring prior provocative actions by the west. Social media enabled western nations to garner internal support allowing them to fund Ukraine, despite it impacting them economically.

In this case, Hamas initially projected their success by posting images on social media of captured Israelis’ and killed settlers sending a message of victory, hoping to draw other terrorist groups into the battle. Their target audience were also Arab states, including some seeking rapprochement with Tel Aviv. Hamas social media posts also included celebrations within the population of Gaza, highlighting the popularity of the organization.

Israelis projected the same images as brutal murder of innocents thereby seeking global support for targeting a terrorist group which attacks unarmed civilians. How genuine were images projected by both sides is unknown. However, videos of Israeli prisoners, maltreatment of bodies of those killed and subsequent local celebrations broadcast by Hamas as also destruction of structures within Gaza projected by Israel are factual.  

The fact that Israel was hit by Islamic terrorists gave them global sympathy. To garner further sympathy, Israel termed the attack as its 9/11, reminding the world of the dangers of terrorist groups and comparing its invasion of Gaza to that of Afghanistan by the US, in both cases, civilian casualties being acceptable.

Israel projected its intent of eradicating Hamas by bombing Gaza, claiming to target military establishments. Images of civilians in Gaza being killed and rendered homeless did little to change global public opinion. Israel had won the propaganda war and no matter what Hamas does could never turn tables.

The residents of Gaza are trapped and no one cares. Egypt is unwilling to open its borders aware that once residents exit, they would never return nor would Israel permit them to. Cairo would be compelled to establish refugee camps which could become a security issue in the years ahead. Lebanon and Jordan have already experienced it. No other Arab nation has volunteered to accept Gaza migrants. Hamas is also preventing movement of civilians as more lives lost, implies increased pressure on Israel.

A nation in political disarray invites exploitation by adversaries. Netanyahu headed a minority government and faced intense internal resistance on his attempts to curtail powers of the Supreme Court. The nation was divided as never before. Thousands of military reservists refused to join. Hamas exploited this divide.

Simultaneously nothing unites a nation more than a military threat. The Hamas attack united Israel to the extent that differences were set aside and Jews flew in from all over the world to fight on Israel’s side.

For Arab nations, this is an opportunity they have been seeking since the world began moving from confrontation to collaboration. Israel, which created Hamas, would now view the Palestinian Authority (PA) as lesser of the two evils. Influential nations in the Arab world would provide lip service support to Hamas while Israel eradicates its current leadership. It would then push for a two-state solution under the PA. Israel is unlikely to be given any option on the subject.

Hence, the contours of the region may change forever post the conflict.