30 May 2024
0 6 mins 1 mth


JERUSALEM — Israel’s top military intelligence chief said Monday he would step down and retire because of his department’s failure to anticipate Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israeli towns along the Gaza border.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva is the highest ranking leader to resign over the assault, the deadliest one-day attack in Israel’s history. Hamas fighters overwhelmed Israel’s high-tech border defenses and caught military units off guard as they stormed farming communities and killed an estimated 1,200 people, including 300 soldiers. Militants also took 253 hostages back to Gaza.

“The military intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to our mission,” Haliva said in a letter shared by the Israel Defense Forces on Monday. He said he has “been carrying that black day ever since, day and night. I will live with the horrible pain of the war every day.”

Hamas planned for the highly coordinated assault for more than a year, building its battle plans from open source materials and repeatedly drilling its troops, Israeli investigators said in December. Israeli intelligence failed to detect those preparations and didn’t heed warning signs that emerged in the hours before the attack, early reviews found.

The attack stunned Israelis and immediately raised questions about the country’s intelligence and defense capabilities. The Washington Post reported last year that despite information coming to light in August that an attack was imminent, warnings were dismissed, and the communities on the Israeli side of the border were never notified about a threat.

Military leaders in March launched a preliminary review of the army’s performance on Oct. 7, which left some towns fighting on their own for hours. And experts say they expect there eventually to be a formal, independent investigation of all aspects of the crisis along the lines of the 9/11 Commission in the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.

But those efforts have been largely deferred as Israel continues to fight Hamas in Gaza and fend off missile attacks from Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

Politics, too, are playing a role. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support has plummeted amid anger that Israel’s longest-serving leader failed to prevent the attacks. Many Israelis have called on him to resign, either now or when the war has wound down. With fighting easing in Gaza, a majority of Israelis said the time had come for those responsible to step down, according to a survey published last week by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Netanyahu has deflected questions on his own responsibility and insisted formal inquiries wait until a later date.

The resignation of Haliva, who titled his announcement “Responsibility and Termination of Position,” was seen by some as a sign that momentum for accountability was building.

“Along with authority comes heavy responsibility,” Opposition leader Yair Lapid said in post on X Monday, praising Haliva’s resignation as “justified and honorable. It would have been appropriate for Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same.”

The prime minister’s office declined to comment.

Haliva’s resignation had been long-expected. The 38-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces publicly took responsibility for the intelligence failures 10 days after the attacks.

Haliva had been given a detailed briefing in May 2022 on findings that pointed to a large-scale Hamas attack, according to a report by Israel’s public broadcasting network. On the day of the attack, intelligence monitors detected Israeli SIM cards activated by Hamas, leading to a situation assessment call with the military chief of staff. Haliva was on vacation in southern Israel and did not participate in this call according to the Israeli media.

He announced in November that he would step down as soon as the progress of the war in Gaza allowed, reportedly telling colleagues his “days were numbered,” according to local media reports.

The pace of fighting in Gaza — which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinian in six months, according to Gaza health authorities — has eased in recent weeks. While Israel said it intends to return for an assault on the final Hamas stronghold in southern Gaza, it has for now pulled most troops from the enclave.

“Time has elapsed and the war is being a little bit less forcefully fought and [Haliva] is actually the first one to take responsibility for what happened,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of military intelligence research. “People look at it this and ask, ‘Who is next?’”

Haliva will officially leave the role once his successor is appointed, the IDF said.

A deep review of the Oct. 7 intelligence failures is critical, said Kuperwasser, who now heads the Institute for the Research of the Methodology of Intelligence. Signs that should have alerted the analysts were missed, and some in the system didn’t speak up and some officers discounted warnings from their juniors.

“They had doubts and they said ‘we don’t to be seen as crying wolf,’” he said. “The system needs a level of humility. If you don’t know for sure, cry wolf. Look what can happen when you don’t.”

Hassan reported from London.





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