Israeli military analysts flagged Hamas plans to ‘start a war’ before terror attack

Israeli military analysts flagged Hamas plans to ‘start a war’ before terror attack

Three months before the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, analysts in the Israeli military alerted their superiors to a serious threat from Hamas militants — a “plan designed to start a war.” But their concerns were dismissed by their superiors, according to an Israeli official familiar with the matter.

The incident is part of a growing body of evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government missed — or ignored — key warnings about Hamas’ plans to attack the country.

Netanyahu, as well as Israeli military and intelligence officials, came under deeper scrutiny Thursday after The New York Times reported that Israeli authorities obtained Hamas’ plans for an Oct. 7-style assault a year before it occurred.

Israeli experts did not believe Hamas was capable of carrying out the attack and disregarded the step-by-step blueprint, according to the Times, which drew from documents, emails and interviews. More than 1,200 people died and over 200 were abducted in the attack, the worst terrorist strike in Israeli history.

NBC News has not independently confirmed the New York Times report or obtained a copy of the 40-page blueprint, which Israeli officials are said to have code-named “Jericho Wall.”

A U.S. official said American intelligence agencies appear to have not received a copy of the document. “There are no indicators at this time that the intelligence community was provided the ‘Jericho Wall’ document reported last night by the New York Times,” the official said, adding that the U.S. intelligence community will continue to review its information.

In an email on July 6, a female Israeli intelligence analyst who focused on Hamas described a May training session by that group that started in the early-morning hours and went late into the evening. The training included jeeps and motorcycles, and a scenario of shooting down an aircraft.

The subject line read: “Death in the Kibbutz, at any cost.”

She followed up the initial email with information about Hamas militants talking about awaiting instructions.

The emails, which were first reported by Israel’s Channel 12 news and the Financial Times, were confirmed to NBC News by the senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In a response sent six days after the warning, an IDF commander acknowledged the analyst’s good work but decided that the training session was for show, an “imaginary scenario” — not a concrete battle plan, according to the Israeli official.

The analyst replied with a stark warning: “This is a plan designed to start a war,” and noted Hamas’ capability to do so. One of her colleagues backed her up on the same email thread. “I emphasize that we completely and emphatically disagree with the assumption that this is an imaginary scenario,” he wrote.

According to the female analyst, Hamas militants were chanting things like, “Prepare to kill the Jewish pigs” and “Prepare to go in and decapitate.” She added: “They are training, with large forces, for a big event… this is preparation for the real thing.”

In response to an inquiry from NBC News, an IDF spokesman said the military was entirely focused on fighting Hamas. “After the war,” the spokesman said, “the IDF will conduct an in-depth, incisive and uncompromising investigation and release its findings to the public.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing the Times report on Friday, promised that there would be “accountability, looking at what led up to Oct. 7.”

“Right now, the focus is on making sure that they can do everything possible to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Blinken told reporters on a tarmac in Dubai, where he attended the COP28 climate summit.

The intelligence failure could further weaken Netanyahu’s political standing inside Israel, where calls for his resignation have grown in recent weeks. Netanyahu faced intense protests this summer over his plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system.

The revelations came as a fragile seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas broke on Friday, after Hamas fired rockets on Israel and failed to provide a list of hostages it would release.

The weeklong calm had allowed for the release of around 100 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel, as well as the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. There are still around 150 hostages held in Gaza, according to an Israeli count, including American citizens.

The new round of fighting that erupted Friday has killed 178 people and injured 589 others in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the besieged Palestinian enclave. The ministry claimed that most of the day’s victims were women and children.

In all, more than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war broke out, according to the Palestinian government media office.

Current and former Israeli officials, and a former U.S. liaison to Israel’s security services, said that Israeli officials believed that Hamas would not undertake a wide-scale assault because the group’s leaders were content to rule Gaza and skim international aid.

Before Oct. 7, Netanyahu’s government allowed Gazans to cross into Israel for work and enabled millions of dollars of aid to flow into the enclave to support the development of energy resources.

Israeli leaders believed that Hamas was “under control,” according to a former senior Israeli security official. “We were wrong,” he said.

Anna Schecter

Anna Schecter is a senior producer in the NBC News Investigations Unit.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

Daniel Arkin

Daniel Arkin is a national reporter at NBC News.  » …
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