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Israel Op-Ed

2 commando companies said diverted from Gaza border to West Bank days before Oct. 7

Two companies of troops from the IDF’s Commando Brigade, which were deployed to the Gaza border during the Jewish holiday season in September and October, were sent to the West Bank just two days before Hamas’s October 7 massacre, according to a Monday media report.

  • The 100 or so soldiers were deployed to the West Bank’s Huwara, the Kan public broadcaster reported, amid heightened tensions there. A shooting attack in the Palestinian town took place against an Israeli family later that day. There were no injuries in the shooting.

The revelations came as Channel 12 reported that top commanders of the Israel Defense Forces were aware, in the hours, days, and months that preceded the Hamas-led devastating October 7 onslaught that the Palestinian terror group was drilling intensively for a planned large-scale invasion.

  • The commando soldiers had been deployed to the Gaza border on the orders of the IDF Operations Directorate, and they were not part of the regular forces securing the border, Kan said.

Following the report, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said there was no change in the number of troops carrying out routine security on the Gaza border ahead of Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, but that redeployment of the two commando companies away from Gaza would be investigated.

“The deployment of the forces that carry out regular operational activities [on the border of] the Gaza Strip did not change before October 7,” Hagari said in response to a question at a press conference.

  • “We will investigate in depth the decision on the reserve forces, which is a General Staff decision that is made regularly according to a situational assessment,” he said.

The term “reserve forces” in this case does not mean members of the reserve army, but rather troops that bolster various regions, based on assessments carried out by the IDF General Staff. The two Commando Brigade companies were part of the reserve forces, rather than those carrying out routine security.

  • “Every weekend, we position the reserve forces [in different areas], depending on the threats,” Hagari said.
  • “We will investigate this when we have the operational possibility.”

On October 7, Hamas led thousands of terrorists to breach the border with the Gaza Strip, beginning at around 6:30 a.m. Some 3,000 attackers poured through the boundary and rampaged murderously through southern areas, slaughtering over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists overran military positions and civilian communities, also killing 360 people at an outdoor music festival. At least 240 people were abducted and taken as hostages to Gaza.

The Kan-reported troop shuffle was the latest in a series of media reports that while Israel’s security forces had indications Hamas was preparing for a major attack, the signs were played down due to a belief that the terror group was not interested in a broad conflict.

Channel 12 listed information and assessments presented to the IDF as far back as July 2022 that could have enabled the Israeli military leadership to prevent the mass invasion. They included a presentation by an IDF intelligence officer at the time titled “The Mass Invasion Plan of Hamas” that laid out many scenarios for breaching the border by large numbers of elite Nukhba Hamas terror squads using methods eventually applied on October 7.

A further warning from the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate that something major was brewing came three months before the eventual attack.

On October 1, furthermore, the commander of the Gaza Division ordered a situational assessment, which found a “sharp increase in drills by Nukhba forces.” Six Hamas battalions were drilling once or twice a week, the report on that assessment said.

  • On the night between October 6 and 7, hours before the early morning assault, an email was sent from an IDF base on the Gaza border describing “certain signs coming from Gaza” about an imminent attack. At the same time, the Shin Bet security agency also saw signs that something was up.
  • At around 1:30 a.m. on October 7, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s office manager was updated about this by the Shin Bet, and then by the IDF general in charge of the Southern Command. At around 3:30 a.m., Halevi was awakened. He asked to arrange a telephone consultation to make a situational assessment.

An order was eventually given to obtain further intelligence, and three drones and a combat helicopter were mobilized but no preparations were made for a major incident.

Israel has responded to the Hamas attack with a military campaign, including an ongoing ground incursion, aimed at destroying the terror group and removing it from power in Gaza.

Source: TOI