Israel’s response to terror: Intelligence failure or blatant lies?
In the early afternoon of August 18, 2011, terrorists launched a three-pronged attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers, shooting at civilian cars and buses, blowing up another bus, and launched cross-border shooting attacks. The violence along the Israeli-Egyptian border caused the deaths of eight Israelis, a number of the attackers and a handful of Egyptian security personnel.
At around 3 p.m. that afternoon, with shooting still audible in the background of a live press conference in Eilat, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the world that the attack (and attackers) originated in Gaza and vowed to respond “forcefully and decisively.” Minutes later, Israeli Air Force jets took off from their nearby bases and bombed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees’ leadership. Six people were killed in that initial strike.
A few hours after the air strikes began, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a dramatic press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. He presented a new doctrine of immediate, harsh response to any attack against Israelis and lauded his security services for the quick strike against the PRC, who he said “carried out the attack.” Those who gave the order for the attack, Netanyahu added, “are no longer among the living.”
In the following days, the IDF continued pounding targets in the Gaza Strip, which it described as “terror targets” responsible for the Eilat attack. Over 30 Palestinians were killed and dozens more wounded in Israel’s bombing and shelling of the Strip.
Predictably, Palestinian groups in Gaza retaliated against the IDF strikes, although they immediately and adamantly denied responsibility for the terror attack on Eilat. Nonetheless, the Palestinian groups launched hundreds of Grad and Katyusha rockets into Israel, killing one Israeli in Beersheba and wounding a handful of others, including three Palestinian workers near Ashdod.
The escalation and ensuing cycle of violence came dangerously close to sparking a war in Gaza and a diplomatic crisis with Egypt.
This morning, a short front-page article in The Jerusalem Post revealed that five months later, in its final assessment, the IDF concluded that Egyptians, not Gazans carried out the attack.
So why did Israel launch an attack on the Gaza Strip and the PRC?
One possible explanation is massive intelligence failure.
The attack did not come as a surprise to Israel. In mid-August, Israeli intelligence and security forces were on high alert for a terror attack in or near Israel’s southernmost city. One of Israel’s most elite domestic counter-terrorism units, YAMAM (the police’s Central Special Unit), was even deployed to Eilat for rapid response should an attack be launched. The advanced warning and near-immediate response to the Eilat attack suggests that Israel knew of the plot ahead of time, and presumably who carried it out.
In a country where the IDF line is rarely questioned, especially in the aftermath of a deadly attack, the mainstream media mostly regurgitated as fact the assertion that the PRC was responsible.
Responding to a rare challenge of Israel’s official line at the time, IDF Spokeswoman Lt.-Col. Avital Liebowitz offered The Real News “proof” the attackers came from Gaza. Liebowitz’s almost-comical evidence was centered on the fact that the terrorists were found to be “using, for example, Kalashnikov bullets and Kalashnikov rifles, [which] are very common in Gaza.” The Kalashnikov is of course the most widely-used assault rifle in the world.
To be fair to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, it is likely not privy to every bit of intelligence nor is it expected to reveal such sensitive information. Driving home that disconnect, Liebowitz reiterated today that officially, the IDF’s “point of view” is still that “the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza [were] behind [the] August attack.” Liebowitz and another spokesman did not immediately respond to a request asking to clarify exactly what she meant by “point of view.”
But with unnamed IDF sources now telling the Jerusalem Post – as well as Israeli-daily Yedioth Ahronot several months ago – that Egyptians were behind the attacks, one must wonder whether Israeli intelligence made a huge mistake in attributing blame for the attack on the PRC.
If it was an intelligence failure that led to the near-war in Gaza last summer that killed dozens of Palestinians and wounded over 100, Israelis, Palestinians and the world should be worried.
Another possible explanation is that the intelligence was not faulty but that Israel’s political echelon decided to ignore it in order to launch an attack on Gaza. It would not be the first time Israel ignored and manipulated facts in order to launch a war.
Either way, those wounded Gazans and the families of those killed in Israel’s attack on the Strip last summer shouldn’t hold their breath for an apology, despite the IDF’s admission that it had no reason to attack.