Lack of Intelligence Enables First Armored Terror Attack on Regular Army

Once again, after two previous successes, Hamas proved Saturday, April 19 it was capable of ramming through Israel’s border defenses against the Gaza Strip. This time, Israeli troops acted expeditiously and boldly enough to prevent a major Palestinian breakthrough at the Kerem Shalom crossing and fatal casualties. Thirteen members of the Southern Command’s Bedouin Desert Patrol Battalion were injured, none of them seriously.
These troops performed their mission of foiling a Hamas killing-cum-kidnap rampage, although they were not armed with advance warning or the anti-tank weapons for dealing with the Palestinian group’s two armored personnel carriers and two explosives-packed jeeps.
Hamas was found to have seriously upgraded its tools of war and achieved a first in the world’s terrorist warfare against a regular army, even overtaking al Qaeda and Taliban. Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, chief of the IDF southern command was unstinting in his praise for the Bedouin Desert Patrol Battalion performance against a “strategic assault.”
But the spectacle of the Palestinian APC standing unscratched inside the Kerem Shalom crossing, the southernmost Israel-Gaza gateway spoke volumes about Hamas’ progress in breaching the border fence for the third time in ten days.
Still more, it testified graphically that Hamas’ movements and plans in the Gaza Strip are a closed book for the Israeli army’s operational intelligence.
Properly briefed, the IDF would have equipped Desert Battalion troops with anti-tank weapons for stopping the jeeps and APC before they reached the soldiers’ posts inside the crossing and prevented the explosions which injured 13 men.
Even so, they frustrated Hamas in its bid to kill and kidnap more Israeli soldiers and captured one of the APCs.
The second Hamas armored carrier, packed with explosives and bound for Kibbutz Nirim outside the Kissufim crossing further north, was destroyed by a shell fired from one of the tanks deployed there before reaching the other side.
The IDF was clearly operating without military intelligence in the subsequent airborne reprisal raids too. These raids should have focused on the Hamas chain of command which ordered the Kerem Shalom breach operation, the logistic measures employed and the military installations where the assault vehicles were camouflaged with IDF markings.
Instead, they targeted suspect Palestinian military-looking vehicles on the premise that they were carrying Hamas operatives back from their attacks.
According to our sources, Palestinian gunmen may have been hit but the real assailants most likely got away and disappeared inside the Gaza Strip.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources offer an explanation for Israel’s dearth of inside information on the Gaza strip and the fact that it had no early warning of the coming bomb car-APC assault.
Israel’s policy-makers and therefore its war planners have never charted a clear policy for dealing with the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas. Furthermore, the government through second and third-hand intermediaries – Egypt, Qatar, European – is talking to Hamas. Then, too, parts of the government led by defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, are resistant to any effective military action against the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. Israel’s war planners are therefore left high and dry without a clear strategy for coping with Hamas and its offensives.
Months of marking time in this way have had a dampening effect on the armed forces and its morale; field intelligence cannot tell on which targets to focus and gather data, while the field officers are at sea about their missions.
The unrealistic assumption that intelligence is omnipotent lost credence two years ago in the 2006 war against Hizballah in Lebanon. It became clear then that for good intelligence to work, it needs direction from the policy-makers and high command pointing to the desired strategic targets. Lacking such direction, intelligence gatherers have no clear objectives.
To take a concrete example, if prime minister Ehud Olmert were to issue a national directive for all intelligence and security branches to concentrate their efforts on locating the place where Hamas is holding their hostage, Gilead Shalit, this information would become available. But this directive has never been issued.
This widening gap, which separates the government and the military high command from the Southern Command and field units, is exploited by Hamas to hatch its war plans in total hush. The fact is that the Palestinian terrorists managed to get away with planting two explosive jeeps and armored personnel carries on the Israel side of the border Saturday, without incurring the correct IDF retaliation of hitting the bases where the lethal vehicles were rigged.

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