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Almost fifty years to the day after the joint Egyptian-Syrian offensive that launched the 1973 October War, Israel has once again been caught with its pants down. On this occasion its briefs were dangling from its ankles as well.

Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, as Hamas named its 7 October offensive into Israeli territory, represents an even greater Israeli failure. Extensive and reasonably successful Egyptian and Syrian efforts to conceal their intentions, preparations, and capabilities notwithstanding, Israel in 1973 received multiple warnings about an impending Arab attack from, among others, King Hussein of Jordan, a high-level Egyptian agent, and several of its own intelligence officers. Its primary failure was not ignorance, but the haughty dismissal of knowledge that contradicted preconceptions.

While hubris and complacency have been mainstays in Israel's dealings with Arab military adversaries, on this occasion it additionally had no information about the impending operation. This despite its world-leading surveillance and intelligence capabilities, and the reality that the Gaza Strip is not only miniscule in size but also the most intensively and intrusively surveilled territory and population on the planet, and one that has furthermore been under blockade for seventeen years. That Hamas and Islamic Jihad were under these circumstances able to plan and prepare an operation of such scale, scope, and sophistication, a process that will have consumed many months at the least, and will have required extensive communications among leaders, cadres, and operatives, is an astonishing achievement and testament to the legendary resourcefulness of Gaza's Palestinians.

While we can at this point only speculate as to how Hamas managed to prepare and launch this offensive in plain view of Israel, the avoidance or effective encryption of electronic and digital communications will certainly have played an important role. Similarly, Hamas has in recent years considerably improved its counter-intelligence capabilities to minimize infiltration, an essential feature given the nearly constant flow of Palestinians who transit through Israeli-controlled border crossings and are susceptible to recruitment by Israeli intelligence as conditions for access to health care, employment, and the like. Rather than serving as Israel's eyes and ears within the Gaza Strip, it seems likely at least some of these Palestinians conducted reconnaissance for Operation Al-Aqsa Storm within Israel. ...

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