Three days before Hamas’ large-scale assault on Israel, the Egyptian authorities warned their counterparts in Tel Aviv that such an operation was imminent, US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told reporters on Wednesday.
- “We know that Egypt has warned the Israelis three days prior that an event like this could happen,” McCaul said following a closed-door intelligence briefing on Capitol Hill.
- “I don’t want to get too much into classified, but a warning was given,” McCaul continued. “I think the question was at what level.”
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Israeli officials ignored repeated warnings from Cairo that Hamas was planning “something big.” Citing a source within Egyptian intelligence, the news agency claimed that the Israeli government felt that an attack was unlikely to come from Gaza, and would probably take place in the West Bank instead.
The AP report did not specify how recently these warnings were allegedly made.
Hamas militants began firing barrages of rockets into Israel from Gaza on Saturday, with fighters then pouring across the border and raiding Jewish settlements near the Palestinian enclave.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by declaring a state of war and launching airstrikes on Gaza.
- Israel has since come under rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria, and as of Wednesday, more than 1,200 Israelis are dead and 3,200 injured, according to government figures. At least 1,100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,300 wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Saturday’s surprise attack has been viewed as a catastrophic failure for Israel’s intelligence services, which were previously believed to have eyes and ears throughout Gaza.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied that he was notified of Hamas’ plans before the onslaught.
Shortly after McCaul spoke to reporters in Washington, an anonymous Egyptian official told the Times of Israel that Cairo’s agents did warn their Israeli counterparts about a planned Hamas attack, but that this warning may not have made it to Netanyahu’s office.