Analysis | Hamas’ Perfect Surprise

Leading up to October 7, Hamas was presumed to be deterred. This was a serious error of judgment by Israel’s leadership, military, and Shin Bet

view of the destruction in Kibbutz Be'eri as the Israeli army regained control 

On the morning of October 7, 2023, Israel and the entire world were taken by surprise by an attack initiated by Hamas on the State of Israel. The attack included massive rocket bombardments on various targets in Israel and the infiltration of large ground forces through different transportation means towards the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, as well as nearby cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon.

The forces breached the barrier and the sophisticated fence (known as the “obstacle”) that the IDF had set up over the years and overcame the tactical intelligence system that was supposed to provide warning of this surprise move in time. All the signs pointed to Hamas being deterred. It was a serious error in judgment and understanding by the Israeli leadership, military, and Shin Bet

The ”conception”
Surprises at the outset of wars or operations are not uncommon. They are part of the operational plan and are intended to catch the enemy off guard when they are unprepared. Even if "indications" accumulate with the attacked side, suggesting that the enemy is about to make a move, they are usually explained away by a conception – a line of reasoning, an existing way of thinking through which new information is analyzed. This was the case for us before the Yom Kippur War.

A surprise is usually the result of deceptive actions taken against the enemy, including both concealment and steps to prevent the enemy from revealing the intentions of those who devised the attack. Deceptive actions are also taken throughout the preparation period leading up to the war, designed to convince the enemy that there is no impending threat.

Tell-tale signs

Just like in the past, before the current war, Hamas had publicly disclosed everything related to its plans and preparations for carrying out the operation that was executed on October 7, 2023, which will be remembered as an eternal disgrace.

Since 2018, various media outlets have published information gathered with great professionalism by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) about Hamas' intentions and plans to overcome the “obstacle” – the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from the State of Israel. Mass marches, known as "Return Marches," were held with the goal of infiltrating Israeli territory and the communities near the Gaza Strip in order to achieve a significant national accomplishment.

Furthermore, public information disseminated by Hamas over the past few years indicates that the organization trained for an attack plan over the course of several years. They have operated six training camps, with one of them located just 700 meters from a major IDF camp along the border.

The training exercises included simulations of IDF bases and Israeli communities, similar to what the Egyptians did on Yom Kippur when they built models of the Bar-Lev Line fortifications. Likewise, the Syrians then created models of the Golan Heights obstacles and trained on them, including a model of Mount Hermon.

Hamas' training exercises also included the kidnapping of hostages. Among the attack plans found with the terrorists killed within Israeli territory, it was revealed that Hamas' elite unit, the Nukhba, was intended to lead the attack and abduction, following at least a year of training. In southern Gaza, training exercises were conducted involving the operation of drones, including takeoffs and landings.

Additionally, the publicly available information that was disseminated in the years leading up to the attack revealed the extensive and varied preparations made by the organization for executing the operation. These preparations included the production of bulldozers for removing the barbed wire border fence, cutting tools for breaching it, and maps for reaching civilian communities and IDF camps in the area and for orientation inside them.

Indeed, Hamas studied us thoroughly, much like the Egyptians did over 50 years ago when we prepared for Operation Badr – crossing the Suez Canal and taking over the Ber-Lev line.

For example, they published in their open press that "We have a big fish closeby waiting for us, the settlement (as they call our communities) of Be’eri, located 4.5-4 km east of Gaza, and considered one of the most affluent settlements, with nearly 900 settlers living there. It can be reached by motorcycles in 4-3 minutes or by a quick 15–20-minute run.”

They also called on the residents of Gaza to join the effort. However, they cautioned against "causing destruction and killing Israeli soldiers, so they (the Israelis) won't have a justification for committing massacres." All of this, of course, was presented as a non-violent action.

On social media, the atmosphere was more agitated. Distances to various settlements and the command structure from the Gaza Strip were mentioned, along with the duration to reach them by motorcycles, as well as calls to commit slaughter in their inhabitants: "Kill, slaughter, burn. Never have mercy on them."

Shock and confusion

On the ground that day, it appears that the instructions to the Hamas forces were in line with what circulated on social media, as evidenced by documents found with the terrorists killed during combat. I assume that even this sensitive information reached those responsible for monitoring activities in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas managed to achieve a perfect surprise both in the initiation and execution of the attack. The IDF did not stand up against it in the initial hours of the attack. The shock and confusion on our side were significant, and as a result, the response was delayed, allowing the organization to carry out a significant part of the horrors.

I do not know whether they received assistance or involvement from other actors in the region, such as Iran and Hezbollah. However, the various characteristics of their preparations for the operation on their own indicate that they have learned well from what the Egyptians did at the onset of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Once again, Israel fell into the enemy's deception trap, as they knew exactly where they were heading and caused us to understand things in a manner completely opposite to what we had analyzed. We felt complacent and confident in ourselves, even though the reality was entirely different. History sometimes repeats itself, especially when we fail to learn and apply its lessons.


Once again, our intelligence apparatus failed to correctly understand the information and the indications about Hamas' preparations for the attack against us. Even the few warnings received in the days leading up to the attack, according to media reports, did not assist us.

We all hoped that, like back in 1973, despite the surprise attack and its severe consequences, the IDF will know how to turn the situation around and demonstrate to Hamas and its leadership that they made a grave mistake, that they are about to pay a heavy price for their actions and cruelty, and that now it is their turn to be surprised by the response that will come against them and anyone who attempts to harm the State of Israel.

Colonel (res.) Pesah Melubani serves in various positions within the IDF Intelligence Directorate. He is a historian and a military history researcher, specializing in Arab armies and intelligence, as well as the Soviet/Russian and Iranian involvement in the Middle East.

Rare-earth elements between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China
The Eastern seas after Afghanistan: the UK and Australia come to the rescue of the United States in a clumsy way
The failure of the great games in Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day
Russia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. The intelligence services organize and investigate