The 10 gunmen from Gaza knew exactly how to find the Israeli intelligence hub — and how to get inside.
After crossing into Israel, they headed east on five motorcycles, two gunmen on each vehicle, shooting at passing civilian cars as they pressed forward.
Ten miles later, they veered off the road into a stretch of woodland, dismounting outside an unmanned gate to a military base. They blew open the barrier with a small explosive charge, entered the base and paused to take a group selfie. Then they shot dead an unarmed Israeli soldier dressed in a T-shirt.
For a moment, the attackers appeared uncertain about where to go next. Then one of them pulled something from his pocket: a color-coded map of the complex.
Reoriented, they found an unlocked door to a fortified building. Once inside, they entered a room filled with computers — the military intelligence hub. Under a bed in the room, they found two soldiers taking shelter.
The gunmen shot both dead.
This sequence was captured on a camera mounted on the head of a gunman who was later killed. The New York Times reviewed the footage, then verified the events by interviewing Israeli officials and checking Israeli military video of the attack as well.
They provide chilling details of how Hamas, the militia that controls the Gaza Strip, managed to surprise and outmaneuver the most powerful military in the Middle East last Saturday — storming across the border, overrunning more than 30 square miles, taking more than 150 hostages and killing more than 1,300 people in the deadliest day for Israel in its 75-year history.
With meticulous planning and extraordinary awareness of Israel’s secrets and weaknesses, Hamas and its allies overwhelmed the length of Israel’s front with Gaza shortly after dawn, shocking a nation that has long taken the superiority of its military as an article of faith.
Using drones, Hamas destroyed key surveillance and communications towers along the border with Gaza, imposing vast blind spots on the Israeli military. With explosives and tractors, Hamas blew open gaps in the border barricades, allowing 200 attackers to pour through in the first wave and another 1,800 later that day, officials say. On motorcycles and in pickup trucks, the assailants surged into Israel, overwhelming at least eight military bases and waging terrorist attacks against civilians in more than 15 villages and cities.
Hamas planning documents, videos of the assault and interviews with security officials show that the group had a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of how the Israeli military operated, where it stationed specific units, and even the time it would take for reinforcements to arrive.
The Israeli military says that, once the war is over, it will investigate how Hamas managed to breach its defenses so easily.
But whether the armed forces were careless with their secrets or infiltrated by spies, the revelations have already unnerved officials and analysts who have questioned how the Israeli military — renowned for its intelligence gathering — could have inadvertently revealed so much information about its own operations. [Continue reading…]