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What did Israel know about Hamas’ October 7 attack?

Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7 left Israel flat-footed, sparking a backlash that is still rippling through the country.

The operation saw at least 1,500 Hamas fighters pour across the border into Israel, in an assault that killed at least 1,200 Israelis, while others are still held hostage by the militant group.

But a report from the New York Times claimed Israel obtained Hamas’ plan for the attack more than a year in advance.

The report says Israeli officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, and deemed it too complex for the group to carry out. Other outlets, including Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have also reported the claim.

Here’s what we know about Israel and the US’ advance knowledge of the attack.

What did Israel reportedly know about the attack?

Israeli officials obtained a document describing Hamas’ battle plan for its October 7 terror attack more than a year before the militant group carried out the assault, the New York Times reported Thursday, citing documents, emails and interviews.

The roughly 40-page document did not give a date for the attack, but outlined “point by point” the kind of deadly incursion that Hamas carried out in Israeli territory in October, according to the Times, which reviewed the translated document.

Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan, assessing that it would be too difficult for Hamas to carry out, according to the Times.

The document, which the Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” detailed an assault that would overwhelm fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and target key military bases. It was followed with precision by Hamas on October 7, the Times said.

On that day, Hamas militants struck across the border from Gaza in a coordinated assault in what was the deadliest single-day assault on Israel since the country’s founding in 1948.

What has Israel’s government said about its intelligence?

The attack was widely seen as a major Israeli intelligence failure, with a number of top defense and security officials coming forward in October to take responsibility to some extent for missteps that led to the attacks.

Later that month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received sharp public criticism after he accused security chiefs in a later-deleted social media post of failing to warn him about the impending attack.

“On the contrary, all the defense officials … assessed that Hamas was deterred,” Netanyahu wrote at the time. 

According to the Times, the “Jericho Wall” document was circulated widely among Israeli military and intelligence leaders, but it was unclear whether Netanyahu or other top political leaders saw the document.

What did the US know before the attack?

The US intelligence community produced at least two assessments, based in part on intelligence provided by Israel, warning the Biden administration of an increased risk for Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the weeks ahead of the seismic attack on southern Israel, sources familiar with the intelligence said in the days after October 7.

One update from September 28 warned, based on multiple streams of intelligence, that the terror group Hamas was poised to escalate rocket attacks across the border.

An October 5 wire from the CIA warned generally of the increasing possibility of violence by Hamas.

Then, on October 6, the day before the attack, US officials circulated reporting from Israel indicating unusual activity by Hamas — indications that are now clear: an attack was imminent.

None of the American assessments offered any tactical details or indications of the overwhelming scope, scale and sheer brutality of the operation that Hamas carried out on October 7, sources say. It is unclear if any of these US assessments were shared with Israel, which provides much of the intelligence that the US bases its reports on.

“There are no indicators at this time that the intelligence community was provided the purported ‘Jericho Wall’ document reported last night by the New York Times,” the official said. “The intelligence community will certainly continue to review its information.”

How was Hamas able to hide some of its plans?

During the two years of planning, the small cell operating in the tunnels used the hardwired phone lines to communicate and plan the operation but stayed dark until it was time to activate and call on hundreds of Hamas fighters to launch the October 7 attack, the sources said.

They avoided using computers or cell phones during the two-year period to evade detection by Israeli or US intelligence, the sources said.

The intelligence shared with US officials by Israel reveals how Hamas hid the planning of the operation through old-fashioned counterintelligence measures such as conducting planning meetings in person and staying off digital communications whose signals the Israelis can track in favor of the hardwired phones in the tunnels.

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