Did Israeli security officials ignore warnings from female border guards that something was brewing in Gaza just before the deadly October 7 invasion?
The accusations are sensational, according to Politico, and reinforce the voices that talk about the knowledge and oligarchy of the political and military authorities.
According to complaints by the (mostly female) border patrol force, also known as tatzpitaniyot (observers in Hebrew)their superiors defied their warnings of unusual activity inside Gaza.
Known as “army eyes”, the tatzpitaniyot force uses security cameras and sensors in a zone of responsibility of 15-30 kilometers. Its duties also include the responsibility to report to its members the slightest change in activity or routine, even if it has to do with farmers.
The warnings of these female border guards have been made over the past several months and they were far from agreeing with the widespread belief that Hamas posed no danger.
Among other things, in their reports they talked about training the Palestinians with explosives or high school-simulated attacks.
According to them, mostly male top commanders dismissed their concernsinsisting that Hamas did not seek or plan war and urging them further to stop taking risks.
Their accusations, beyond what is considered how they carry the stigma of sexismcapture a sense of complacency and arrogance of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the security forces against Hamas, which they believed they had no reason to fear.
Netanyahu’s opponents, on the other hand, argue that he was actively and systematically strengthening Hamas in Gaza, with the support of Qatar, in a daring game of divide and conquer which brought Muslims against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
First line testimonies
tatzpitaniyot, particularly at the Nahal Oz base, one of several kibbutzim attacked on October 7, they said unusual signs along the Gaza border. The activity was not just minor, but included drone flights by Hamas several times each day in the weeks leading up to the attack.
“A month and a half before the war, we saw that in one of the Hamas training camps they had built an exact, same-scale model of an observatory like the one we operate. They started training there with drones to hit the sniper [πολυβόλου]”, explains one of the female soldiers, who for security reasons introduces herself as “Ilana”.
“In the last two months, they started flying drones every day, often and several times a day, right on the border, about three hundred meters from the border fence, and sometimes even closer,” he adds.
Other female soldiers reported that Hamas gunmen rehearsed attacks on armored personnel carriers using a replica Merkava Mark 4 or they dug holes and planted explosives along the border.
Maya Desiatnik, tatzpitaniyot herself, had also warned of alarming action in the months before the attack. She was one of two observers on duty on October 7 to survive the horrific attack.
“It’s infuriating. We saw what was happening, we reported it, and in the end we were the ones who were killed,” she says, referring to the 20 of her colleagues who died that day at the Nahal Oz observatory.
“They were ignored because they went against the official narrative”
One of the reasons the tatzpitaniyot were ignored was that they “didn’t fit the narrative that Hamas had moved away from its revolutionary roots, had become more moderate, institutional and pragmatic,” explains Michael Milstein, head of the Palestinian Affairs Division at Israel’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
Milstein attributes to Netanyahu not only a misjudgment of Hamasbut that it allowed Qatar to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars over the years into Gaza, much of which was likely spent on the organization’s military wing.
It is noted that it was Netanyahu who in 2019, at a conference of his party, Likud, had openly said that “anyone who wants to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state must support the strengthening of Hamas».
“But it wasn’t just Bibi,” Milstein says. “Senior politicians from across the political spectrum, including Naftali Bennett, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, invested in the idea, which was also promoted by Israeli security forces. The Shabak (s.s. or Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency) was wary at first, but then relented,” he told Politico.
“This narrative has become entrenched in the upper echelons of Israeli politics and has been adopted by top military and intelligence chiefs. The rulers intended to manage Hamas, and the warnings did not fit that narrative. But all this turned out to be wishful thinking,” he points out.
The share of responsibility for the failure to prevent this and the deadliest attack since the beginning of the Israeli state they shared many sidesfrom Israeli military and intelligence chiefs to Shin Bet chief and Defense Minister Yoav Gallad.
Unlike them, however, Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to take any responsibility for the failures that led to the Hamas attack. Instead, he insisted that it is his responsibility to successfully handle Israel’s war on Gaza.
“For the past 15 years, Israel has done everything to degrade the Palestinian Authority and strengthen Hamas. Gaza was on the brink of collapse because it had neither resources nor money, and the Palestinian Authority refused to fund Hamas. Bibi saved them. “Bibi made a deal with Qatar and they started moving millions upon millions of dollars into Gaza,” says former prime minister Ehud Olmert. calling responsibility for the attack a collective failure, but attributing the “flirt” with Hamas entirely to Netanyahu.
“We all believed that we could flirt with Hamas, that it would behave according to our own expectations. And the bomb exploded in our hands,” he concludes.