Hamas launched an offensive on October 7, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and infiltrating Jewish settlements along the Gaza border from the ground, taking scores of Israelis hostage.
The attack, which came at a time when Hamas was addressing the economic situation in Gaza and was widely believed to have no intention of going to war with Israel, shocked Israeli politicians and security services.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's statement that "Hamas launched a sudden and deadly attack against Israel" was a "rare admission" from the top of the political pyramid.
The Hamas attack was also likened to the Yom Kippur war launched by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, with Hamas repeating what Egypt and Syria did 50 years ago.
Israeli newspapers reported on the state of shock at the start of the attack, the collapse of intelligence and the similarities between the attack and the October 6 war.
"A LONG-LASTING SHOCK"
On October 7, Israel's Maariv newspaper reported that Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel and that it was a major intelligence failure.
Yediot Ahronot newspaper, on the other hand, assessed the Hamas attack as a failure of the government.
"The long-standing humiliation of fictitious terrorist organizations has turned into a nightmare from which it is difficult to escape and a shock that will haunt Israelis for a long time," the newspaper said.
Israeli military analyst Avi Benayahu, writing in Maariv, said that Israel is in a surprise war with unfamiliar features, with many dead, wounded and kidnapped.
"The idea that Hamas is focused on the economy has proven to be wrong, and the wall that Israel spent billions of shekels to build has collapsed. I have been in front of the television for hours and I have been gritting my teeth and rubbing my eyes in astonishment, because nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of Israel," Benayahu said, adding that a long and difficult period awaits them that will wear down their nerves.
David Horovitz, who described the events as "a major failure", wrote in The Times of Israel, "50 years after the Yom Kippur War, Israel was hit by a surprise attack today, not by Arab armies, but by Hamas. As Israeli politicians convened an emergency meeting, the media began to criticize that 'Israel has once again been caught unawares while preoccupied with domestic issues'."
"ISRAEL'S THOUGHT OF GAZA HAS CRASHED"
Israeli experts also questioned the fact that Hamas carried out the infiltration operation, which involved hundreds of people, without announcing it to anyone.
Amos Harel, an analyst for Haaretz, called the attack a major failure that will cause political shocks, adding:
"The current situation calls for a painful historical comparison. Israeli thinking about Gaza has collapsed. There has been a failure in policy, in the deployment of defense forces and in preparing for surprises. On Saturday night, Israeli politicians and commanders slept safely in their homes and forces were not reinforced because there was no early warning."
Stating that military intelligence and the General Staff claimed that "Hamas had learned from previous wars and did not intend to fight a new one," Harel said, "While hundreds of Hamas members had been preparing for months for this surprise attack without announcing it to anyone, Israel was debating whether to increase the number of workers allowed to enter the country from Gaza."
Emphasizing that both the military and politics have a share in this great failure, Harel said, "This issue can only be evaluated in depth when the war is over. The problem is that Israel is entering this war in an unprecedented crisis. This will affect the government's performance in the difficult days ahead."
Stating that Hamas learned lessons from Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and prepared accordingly, Harel said:
"This time, Hamas attacked the areas where the army is located. Apparently, vigilance was low in these areas and the number of military forces was low. There were also clashes at the Gaza Division headquarters and several other military bases.
Intelligence failure was not the only problem. It seems that the whole system collapsed. This didn't happen when Israel fought the Egyptian army or Hezbollah. This time, a smaller group (Hamas) dealt Israel a more painful blow than the 1973 coup."
HAMAS IMITATED HEZBOLLAH AND WAS CUNNING
Yossi Yehoshua wrote in Yediot Ahronot that "the Israeli army, one of the most powerful in the Middle East and one of the most respected in the world, was stunned by the Hamas attack."
Noting that Hamas showed how cunning it is by sending demonstrators to the border area about two weeks ago, Yehoshua said that "after the Israeli government allowed Gazan workers to enter Israel, the army thought that the situation on the border was under control, while Hamas misled the Israeli army and made it complacent."
Emphasizing that Hamas is imitating Hezbollah by infiltrating settlements along the border, killing and kidnapping soldiers and civilians, Yehoshua pointed out that the army did not think such a thing could happen and also relied on the costly new border barrier.
Yehoshua emphasized that the simultaneous infiltration of armed men into Israel from many points and the rocket barrage on Israel required planning and time, but more importantly, Hamas demonstrated unprecedented courage.
Yehoshua said that October 7, when the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades launched a large-scale attack on settlements in southern Israel, should have shown the Israeli authorities that "building a stronger army is essential," and that in order to do so, they should stop preoccupying themselves with less important issues, such as the long-discussed "judicial reform."
"A SHAME THAT CANNOT BE ERASED"
Meir Sheetrit, a former Israeli minister, wrote in Maariv about "Israel's embarrassment":
"This is a political and operational failure and an intelligence failure. How can we explain the fact that the enemy bulldozed through the fence and entered in Toyota cars and there was no one to stop them? Where is the Israeli army? Where are the most modern weapons and drones, helicopters, tanks, soldiers? This shame cannot be erased."
Sheetrit reminded that the attack took place on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which Egypt launched on October 6, 1973, and said, "The failure of 2023 is worse than the failure of the Yom Kippur War. I find it hard to believe this horrible reality that hits us like a slap in the face."
Sheetrit stated that it is hard to believe that a country with intelligence systems as well as spy software called Pegasus could fail in such a matter, and made the following assessment:
"As a former minister serving in Israeli governments, as an officer serving in the Israel Defense Forces, I am ashamed that such a dangerous failure is taking place in Israel."
Sheetrit added that a committee of inquiry should be established immediately after the end of the war to bring to justice all those responsible for this catastrophic failure.