Although many analysts have addressed the reasons why the events of October 7 occurred in Israel, no one has addressed the planning with which Hamas managed to fool Tel Aviv and the intelligence services.
A publication by the Guardian, it reports minute by minute the progress of the Hamas attack, and specifically how it managed to “pierce” the Israeli defense within a few hours and kill thousands of Israeli citizens, as well as capture more than 250 people.
A plan based on extreme secrecy
In order to catch Mossad and Shinbet asleep, Hamas leaders had been preparing a plan for months, which they did not disclose to any of the fighters until the day of the attack.
The first orders were given before 4 a.m.: anyone who attended the regular trainings and did not intend to attend the dawn prayer at their usual mosques had to go and pray.
An hour later, as the sky began to lighten over Gaza and congregations began to disperse, new instructions were issued. And these were simple and passed mostly by word of mouth: “bring your guns and whatever ammunition you have and gather at certain points.”
But again no one had been informed of what was about to happen. Operation al-Aqsa Flood, the most ambitious operation launched by Hamas since the extremist Islamist group took control of Gaza in 2007, remained secret.
Instructions were given orally
The decision to relay verbal instructions to thousands of Hamas fighters scattered among Gaza’s 2.3 million residents was the latest in a series of measures designed to fool one of the world’s most powerful surveillance systems and keep any information about what could happen from a spy network.
The instructions spread very quickly throughout Gaza. First to receive them were commanders of “battalions” of a hundred or more, then squad leaders of 20 or 30 men, who informed squad commanders of twelve leaders, who passed the message on to friends, neighbors and relatives who participated in the twice-weekly drills at dozens of enclave locations.
Only when the men were assembled were additional ammunition and more powerful weapons distributed. Many had handled such weapons in the previous months and returned them to Hamas arsenals after each lesson. Soon they were carrying grenades, rockets, heavy machine guns, sniper rifles and explosives.
When the time now reached 6 am. the final orders had been issued. Now, these were recorded: the men were to rush through the gaps that would soon be blown or breached in the $1 billion perimeter fence around Gaza and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians on the other side.
The instructions to Hamas were given verbally in order to avoid the Israeli secret services
Hamas soldiers received orders verbally
A design based on precision
Since they had now managed to hide the attack from the Israeli army until the time they launched the rockets and entered Israeli territory at the same time, the second step was to distribute instructions that described a step-by-step plan based on the precision of the movements.
Written orders explained to Hamas units a precise plan drawn up by two men Israel believes were the main planners of the attack: Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s overall commander in the enclave, and Mohammed Deif, the commander of the al-Qassam military brigades and Hamas’ elite Nukhba groups.
Each unit was given a separate objective: a military base, a kibbutz, a street or a city. Often their orders were accompanied by maps detailing defenses and key positions inside their targets, drawing on information from sympathizers working in Israel, the sources said. The rave party in which 260 people died was not among the original targets, it is believed.
Three targets were given to different units by the commanders. A first group was ordered to overrun the understaffed and unprepared Israeli military bases around Gaza or attack civilians in their homes.
Hamas blamed much of the violence against civilians – and atrocities, including rape and torture – on “criminals” who followed its attackers. The Israel Defense Forces released an interview with a captured attacker, who stated that “the mission was to kill … whoever we saw.” The attacker then described shooting children.
Other units were ordered to defend positions against Israeli military forces in the event of an ambush on key roads. It was not a suicide mission as the death of the attackers was not an integral part of the operation, a point of Islamic law that the operation’s planners had carefully considered, the sources said.
A third group of units was detailed to grab as many hostages as possible and transport them to gaps in the fence, where special squads were waiting to transport the hostages to the vast complex of tunnels under Gaza. More than 240 people are believed to be held there, including infants, children and the elderly, as well as military personnel. So far only four have been released and one has been rescued.
Hamas quickly managed to break through the Israeli defenses
The purpose of the Hamas attack on Israel is unclear
Analysts said the goals of the Oct. 7 attack included thwarting efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, further undermining the Palestinian Authority, distracting attention from Hamas’ failure to provide services or break the blockade of Gaza and the provoking of a violent response by Israel that would mobilize its own supporters in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere.
Five days after the attack, a Hamas leader claimed it was a pre-emptive strike launched after the group learned that Israeli forces were preparing a major offensive in Gaza after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Hamas armed the attackers with GoPro cameras to capture images of the attack. Some of the gruesome images recovered by Israeli investigators show sadistic abuse and murder.
There is no evidence that Hamas hoped to hold territory or spark a wider insurgency, although some have been told to fight to the end. Nevertheless, a significant number were delivered. Israeli officials are not saying how many, except that these captives have been a useful source of information.
Hamas ordered some attackers to retreat as Israeli forces began to rally and many senior commanders returned to Gaza. This meant that although many members of the Qassam brigades and Nukhba units died, most of the leaders remained alive.