May 27, 2024

Excessive Surveillance Behind Israel’s Failure to Stop Hamas

Israel’s inability to prevent the devastating attack by Hamas sheds light on an unusual problem – excessive surveillance. The deadly barrage of attacks is a stark reminder that even the most sophisticated surveillance infrastructures have their limitations.

Saturday’s deadly attack on Israel not only caught the country off-guard but has also left hundreds of people dead and thousands injured. As the situation erupts into a full-scale war, questions remain about the actual effectiveness of Israel’s aggressive data espionage strategies.

How Excessive Surveillance Backfired Against Israel

As its conflict against Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip rages on over the years, Israel has developed a vast intelligence infrastructure – the point where surveillance has grown into a major industry for Israel.

The country is well-known for its close monitoring of Gaza, as well as anyone and everyone who might have links with Hamas militants.

The fact that the Hamas militants were able to plan and carry out such an attack despite Israel’s constant monitoring is even more shocking.

Israel employs both traditional espionage methods and advanced surveillance technologies like spyware and facial recognition to keep tabs on its enemies. For years, the country has also proven its technical sophistication and hacking skills on the global stage.

Raphael Marcus, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies studying the conflict in the region, said that there was no doubt that the scale and scope of this Hamas attack indicate just a colossal intelligence failure on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces and in Shin Bet, the internal security agency.

Experts suggest that it’s the country’s excessive surveillance activities that backfired, obscuring the Hamas attack from Israeli authorities.

The sheer volume of intelligence that Israel gathered on Hamas and the group’s activities made it impossible to identify information related to this particular attack amidst the vast number of other potentially credible threats.

They’d be at a heightened state of alert or actively engaged all the time, and that’s probably actually worse for security.Jake Williams

“Intelligence in an environment like Israel isn’t finding a needle in a haystack—it’s finding the needle that will hurt you in a pile of needles”, said Jake Williams, a former US National Security Agency hacker and current faculty member at the Institute for Applied Network Security.

He went on to add that while it was unlikely that Israel “missed every human intelligence reflection of the planning”, there were always Hamas operatives discussing plans to attack the IDF.

Israel’s Persistent Surveillance Efforts in the Gaza Strip

For years, Palestinians in occupied territories like the Gaza Strip and West Bank have been under Israeli surveillance. The 40-mile-long barrier built by Israel around the Gaza Strip is essentially a “Smart Wall” equipped with surveillance equipment like underground sensors, cameras, radars, etc.

“Various surveillance technologies are employed against Palestinians, including drones, mobile bugs (spyware) that have previously been uncovered as being injected into electronic devices prior to entry into the Gaza Strip“, said Mona Shtaya, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

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