Hamas Conducted Public Rehearsal of Attack Prior to Infiltrating Israel’s High-Tech Defenses

by Gabriel Martinez
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Hamas-Israel Attack

Less than four weeks before Hamas operatives successfully breached Israel’s sophisticated “Iron Wall,” initiating an attack that resulted in over 1,200 Israeli casualties, the group conducted a conspicuously public trial run.

A professionally crafted propaganda video of roughly two minutes was disseminated on social media by Hamas on September 12. The footage exhibited militants utilizing explosives to break through a simulated border gate. They then advanced building by building through a lifelike replica of an Israeli town, firing automatic weaponry at targets shaped like humans.

The live-fire drill, named Operation “Strong Pillar,” displayed militants in body armor and combat uniforms executing maneuvers that included demolishing simulated structures of the Iron Wall’s towers and a communications antenna—actions replicated in the lethal attack that unfolded last Saturday.

Israel’s esteemed intelligence and security agencies seemed to be completely unprepared for Hamas’ ability to penetrate its defenses in Gaza. Strikingly, Hamas had made its extensive preparations for this deadly incursion quite evident.

Bradley Bowman, a former U.S. Army officer and now the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, stated, “Either the warning signs were ignored, or they were detected but did not trigger the required defensive actions to thwart these devastating acts of terror.”

Multiple videos released by Hamas over the past year were scrutinized and confirmed for accuracy by The Big Big News, mainly through the Telegram social media platform.

Utilizing satellite imagery, the Associated Press was able to match the location of the replicated town to an area of desert near Al-Mawasi, a Palestinian town along the southern coast of the Gaza Strip. Signage in both Hebrew and Arabic at the gate identifies it as “Horesh Yaron,” which is the name of a contentious Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank.

Bowman also indicated that Hamas may have deliberately misled Israeli authorities into believing that an operation would take place in the West Bank rather than in Gaza. It is also noteworthy that this exercise, which has been conducted annually since 2020, was rescheduled this year to align with the anniversary of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

A separate video from last year’s Strong Pillar exercise displayed militants overrunning a mock Israeli military base, complete with a full-scale tank model adorned with an Israeli flag. The militants navigated through the concrete buildings, capturing others who were role-playing as Israeli soldiers.

Michael Milshtein, a retired Israeli colonel who formerly headed the military intelligence unit overseeing Palestinian territories, admitted to having knowledge of these videos. However, the scale and coordination of Saturday’s operation took him by surprise.

“We were aware of various elements such as drones, booby traps, cyberattacks, and naval forces. What startled us was the seamless coordination among these diverse capabilities,” said Milshtein.

After a substantial financial contribution from U.S. taxpayers, Israel completed a $1.1 billion fortification project along its 40-mile border with Gaza in 2021. Despite these high-tech enhancements, Hamas militants breached the wall within minutes using commercial drones adapted for warfare and other basic but effective tactics.

The failure of Israel’s fortified defenses has led to political repercussions for Netanyahu within Israel, casting doubt on the efficacy of border walls as a security solution. Since the attack, Israeli officials have generally avoided discussing the apparent intelligence failure. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, stated that an explanation is owed to the public, but it is not yet the time for that. “First, we fight, then we investigate,” he commented.

In collaboration with the United States, Israel had been working on technologies for detecting underground tunnels along its Gaza border defenses. Despite these technological advancements, Victor Tricaud, a senior analyst with the London-based consulting firm Control Risks, noted that physical barriers remain inherently breachable. “What was truly exceptional was Hamas’s ability to keep the extensive preparations concealed,” he said.

The reporting was contributed by Biesecker from Washington and El Deeb from Beirut, along with AP reporters from various locations.

For further information, AP’s global investigative team can be contacted at [email protected].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hamas-Israel Attack

What was the event that led to the attack on Israel?

Less than a month before launching a devastating attack on Israel, resulting in more than 1,200 Israeli casualties, Hamas held a very public dress rehearsal. This was documented in a two-minute video posted on social media platforms.

How did Hamas prepare for the attack?

Hamas posted a propaganda video showing fighters using explosives to breach a mock border gate and advance through a full-scale reconstruction of an Israeli town. They carried out operations including the destruction of mock-ups of border wall towers and a communications antenna.

What were Israel’s security measures, and how were they compromised?

Israel had invested $1.1 billion in a high-tech “Iron Wall” along its 40-mile border with Gaza. Despite the use of cameras, seismic sensors, and remote-controlled machine guns, Hamas managed to breach this defense in minutes using basic yet effective tactics like explosives, bulldozers, and commercial drones.

What were the repercussions of the attack within Israel’s political landscape?

The attack has significantly shaken political support for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had championed the building of fortified barriers as an effective defense measure.

What insights do experts have regarding this event?

Military experts note that the attack shows a level of sophistication not previously exhibited by Hamas, suggesting external help. Israeli intelligence was criticized for failing to take adequate preparatory steps despite having some knowledge of Hamas’ activities.

Did Hamas receive any external support for the attack?

According to Ali Barakeh, a senior Hamas official, the group has received supplies, financial support, military expertise, and training from allies abroad, including Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, he insisted that the operation to breach Israel’s border was homegrown.

What was the U.S.’s involvement in Israel’s defense measures?

The U.S., under both the Obama and Trump administrations, had expanded a joint initiative with Israel to develop technologies for detecting underground tunnels along the Gaza border. Since 2016, Congress has appropriated $320 million toward this project.

How did the attack affect U.S-Israel relations?

The article does not specifically address the impact of the attack on U.S-Israel relations, although it notes that the U.S. had financially contributed to Israel’s defense measures.

What do satellite images reveal about the attack?

Satellite imagery analyzed by the Associated Press revealed significant damage at the heavily fortified Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel, including gaping holes in three sections of the border wall.

Is there any ongoing investigation into the intelligence and security failure?

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, acknowledged that an explanation is owed to the public but stated that an investigation would take place after immediate threats were addressed.

More about Hamas-Israel Attack

  • Hamas Propaganda Video
  • Israel’s Iron Wall Defense System
  • Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • AP Satellite Imagery Analysis
  • U.S.-Israel Joint Initiative for Tunnel Detection
  • Michael Milshtein’s Military Intelligence Career
  • Control Risks Consulting Firm
  • Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari’s Statements
  • Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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