It’s probably no surprise that the Gaza Strip is one of the most monitored places in the world. Israel’s entire security system depends on preventing attacks and threats. Unfortunately, on October 7, despite the entire highly-advanced surveillance, Hamas militants carried out the largest attack in their history. What boggles the mind is that Israel had no information prior to the devastating air, land, and sea attack.
Hamas militants used seemingly everything at their disposal in these attacks; cars, motorbikes and trucks, ships and even paragliders. There is no doubt that it is a coordinated attack that has been in preparation for a long time. The attack was a surprise and the army was unprepared. As a result, thousands of residents of southern Israel were left at the mercy of the terrorists.
After a brief moment, Israel’s forces responded as well, leaving thousands of dead and injured. The attacks continue and, at least for now, it doesn’t look like truce is an option. Hamas claims to have over 100 Israeli hostages.
Complete underestimation of Hamas
Given how much information Israel’s intelligence services collect on Hamas, it seems incredible that they failed to learn of the attack and prepare in time. However, the sheer quantity of intelligence that Israel collects on Hamas, as well as the group’s constant activity and organizing, may have played a role in obscuring plans for this particular attack, Wired reported.
“There’s no doubt that the scale and scope of this Hamas attack indicate just a colossal intelligence failure on behalf of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and in Shin Bet, the internal security agency. They have such technical prowess and also a legacy of excellent human source capability.”, says Raphael Marcus, region expert
Israeli officials claim 2,200 Qassam rockets were used in the attacks (Hamas figures are significantly higher, and they claim over 5,000). These rockets are manufactured by Hamas. They managed to smuggle enough materials and assemble over 2000 rockets without being detected. One reason for this is that Hamas has never been seen as a military threat. Most of Israel’s defense is “turned” towards the North and a potential attack by Hezbollah. Yet with all the digital surveillance, it’s still surprising how unprepared Israel was for the attacks that came from the other side.
In the past, a concrete wall, an Iron Dome missile defense shield, and intelligence were sufficient for defense. On October 7, for the first time in recent history, Israel was taken by surprise, most of the defenses that had kept them safe for 20 years breached.
The Gaza Strip is being monitored with an array of surveillance instruments
For years, Israeli companies have been creating spyware and tracking malware. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are being monitored with innovative technology, from the ground and from the air. Anyone suspected of being part of or potentially linked to Hamas is part of special measures, from digital espionage to satellite surveillance and facial recognition technology. However, for the purposes of this attack, Hamas managed to find a way (or the intelligence agencies have a blind spot) to secretly organize the attacks.
As of September 2021, the Gaza Strip is surrounded by a 60-kilometer wall. In addition to the barbed wire, there is a 7-meter wall near Israeli settlements with sensors and remote-controlled machine guns. Radar and cameras are installed on the wall and there are all kinds of sensors and surveillance instruments. Drones can be seen flying over the heads of residents and visitors to Gaza.
“Palestinians are subjected to multi-layered surveillance,” says Mona Shtaya, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “Various surveillance technologies are employed against Palestinians, including drones, mobile bugs (spyware) that have previously been uncovered as being injected into electronic devices prior to entry into the Gaza Strip.”
There is no official report yet on how the attack went undetected, but there are several plausible theories. Some experts believe that there is so much data coming to the intelligence services that it makes it harder to figure out which of the dangers are real. Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, Chuck Freilich, says that the data existed but was not properly processed and understood. Although there have been indications for half a year that Hamas is preparing something big, the signs were not interpreted correctly.
Some experts are ready to accuse the intelligence services. Some Palestinians have been followed almost their entire lives, in every aspect of their lives. People adapt. They do not discuss some topics in public, avoid them on the phone, do not post content on social networks, especially if some phrases or words can be interpreted as dangerous. These habits are not exclusive, and Hamas recruits are playing the careful game as well.
Hamas has its own cyber experts too!
Although Israel’s capabilities far exceed those of Hamas, the militants are not without a cyber army either. The attackers used ordinary drones equipped with bombs to destroy remote-controlled machine gun emplacements, and to attack Israeli tanks.
In the past, the group managed to install data-stealing applications on the phones of Israeli soldiers from various Facebook pages. There are also fake apps for personal contacts that act as a spyware.
In addition, some experts contacted by Wired believe that the group is mostly likely supported from Iran. There is no official confirmation, but some of the representatives of Iran praised and congratulated them for the attacks. Senior Iranian officials met with Hamas officials last month, Politico reported.