In recent weeks, the US intelligence community received warnings from Israel about an increased risk for conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The assessments, based on intelligence provided by Israel, indicated that Hamas was planning to escalate rocket attacks across the border. However, none of the assessments provided tactical details about the magnitude of the attack that would occur on October 7.
It is unclear whether these US assessments were shared with Israel, which often provides the intelligence upon which the US bases its reports. The crisis in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank has been a regular topic in intelligence briefings for senior officials, according to sources.
Some officials argue that these warnings were not new, as the conflict between Hamas and Israel has historically been volatile. They believe that the reports were seen as predictable and did not indicate the severity of the attack that Hamas launched.
Middle Eastern allies also reportedly warned the US and Israeli officials about the increasing anger among Palestinians and the buildup of Hamas weapons. However, these warnings were allegedly not heeded.
CIA Director Bill Burns expressed concern earlier this year about the potential for greater violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Some US officials argue that the failure to provide tactical warning of the attack was primarily Israel's responsibility, as the US relies heavily on Israeli intelligence on Gaza.
US and Israeli officials were reportedly caught off guard by the scale and brutality of the attack, as they expected small-scale violence rather than a large-scale operation.
The failure to predict the attack is attributed to a lack of imagination on Israel's part, as Hamas likely used traditional counterintelligence methods to hide their planning. Israeli officials failed to recognize routine Hamas training exercises as indicators of an imminent attack.
The Biden administration's public posture leading up to the attack did not reflect a heightened sense of alarm. The intelligence community's annual assessment of worldwide threats released earlier this year did not mention Hamas.
The success of the Hamas operation may have exceeded their own expectations, as they likely did not anticipate the level of casualties.
Overall, there are questions about whether the US and Israel were adequately attuned to the risk of the attack and whether the intelligence assessments were effectively communicated between the two countries.