WASHINGTON—Israel has been through many wars before, but the recent Hamas assault, which displayed an unexpected level of sophistication and coordination, shocked Israelis and the rest of the world.
Using motorcycles, pickup vehicles, and even paragliders and speed boats, Hamas terrorists penetrated Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip and began killing and kidnapping civilians. They also launched thousands of rockets into Israeli cities starting at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 7.
Some compared these recent assaults to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and even to the Holocaust.
“It’s a historical disaster, a national trauma that won’t be erased for decades,” said Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“Yesterday, I spoke with my daughters. I told them, ‘Imagine that you are in the middle of the Holocaust, and the Nazis are shooting.’ These are Nazi scenes. It’s terrible,” he told The Epoch Times.
Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials were caught off guard, leading many pundits to question why the Intelligence Community failed to anticipate the attack and avert it, considering that it may have been meticulously planned for months.
“This is an attack that I don’t think anyone saw coming,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Kristen Welker of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
However, he dodged questions about whether there was an intelligence failure.
“The Israelis will have plenty of time to look into that. All of us will have time to look into that. The focus now has to be on making sure that Israel has what it needs to deal with this attack,” Mr. Blinken said.
However, the information regarding this type of attack was available in advance, according to Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
“And the question was not so much the lack of information being available regarding Hamas mobilization; it’s how that information was interpreted, and why do senior political officials ignore it?” he said during a press briefing by the CFR on Oct. 7.
“Because in almost every case of intelligence failure—and I have looked at particularly the 1979 Iran Revolution—there is a lot of information available about impending problems. But somehow, that information is not digested by political leaders in a timely, effective way.”
Mr. Carmon, a retired colonel in the intelligence corps of the Israel Defense Forces who served as a counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli prime ministers, agrees with the assessment.
“The current disaster did not happen due to a lack of information but due to a mistaken perception,” he said. “We at the MEMRI Institute published a warning in September–October talking about signs indicating an upcoming war. We spread it, but no one paid attention. Civilians claimed that they had told the army that they saw the maneuvers, and the army said, ‘It’s nothing.’”
The Israeli Security Cabinet formally declared war on Hamas on Oct. 8 in response to the worst attack on the country in decades. According to reports, at least 600 Israelis were killed, while an undetermined number of civilians have been abducted.
The move is the first such declaration since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which commenced with Egypt and Syria launching surprise attacks against Israel.
U.S. President Joe Biden strongly condemned the attack on Oct. 7, affirming that the United States “will never fail to have Israel’s back.”
He vowed that further aid for the Israel Defense Forces is on its way to Israel, with more to come in the following days.
However, Republicans and pundits criticized the president for releasing $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds as part of a recent hostage-release deal before the attack.
Hamas is among the terrorist groups receiving support from Iran. According to a U.S. State Department report in 2020, Iran had provided up to $100 million annually in total support to these groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The involvement of Iran in this Hamas attack is still unknown, according to Martin Indyk, a distinguished fellow in U.S.–Middle East diplomacy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“But if this is coordinated, as I suspect it is, then I think we can see a situation where Hezbollah could well join in, and then we’ve got a regional conflagration the dimensions on which we have not seen,” he said during the CFR briefing.
Mr. Indyk believes that if the recent attack came as a shock to Israel, it must come as an even bigger shock to the Biden administration, which relies significantly on Israeli intelligence to track Hamas’s activities.
Just two weeks prior, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at The Atlantic Festival that “the Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades,” rattling off a long list of positive developments in the region.
“The Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East, from day one, has been to ‘calm things down.’ That’s their first priority. And as we can see, that’s not happening,” Mr. Indyk said.
He said there have been several conflicts between Israel and Hamas over the past decade.
“And every time it ends with calm restored,” Mr. Indyk said. “At a certain point, the United States needs to say, ‘Enough’; we have to find a more stable and permanent solution. But it’s very hard to get there from here.”
Three years ago, Israel normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in what’s known as the Abraham Accords, inked during President Donald Trump’s tenure.
To conduct a victory lap like his predecessor, President Biden has frequently expressed hope for normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, many believe that the recent Hamas attack is now posing a threat to his efforts, which may slow the process or bring it to a halt.
When asked about this, Mr. Blinken said terror groups such as Hamas are likely to disrupt efforts to advance normalization.
“It’s no surprise that those who are opposed to the talks, those who are opposed to Israel normalizing its relations with its neighbors and with countries beyond the region, are Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran,” he said.
“And so it’s entirely possible that one of the motivations for this attack was to try to derail these efforts to advance normalization, something that is very hard.”
The surprise attack on Israel spurred many Republicans to criticize President Biden and his foreign policies.
“Weakness invites aggression. Appeasement never works,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) wrote in an Oct. 7 post on X.
“U.S. strength is key for global stability. Iran, China, and Russia are looking for any reason to exploit weak U.S. foreign policy.”
Dor Levinter contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times