Israel’s military spy chief quits, first to shoulder blame for Hamas attack

Protesters calling for the immediate release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 18, 2024. (Photo: Reuters)
Protesters calling for the immediate release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 18, 2024. (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

The resignation follows a public outcry within Israel over the failure of the Israeli government, military, and spy agencies to prevent the Oct. 7 attack.

TEL AVIV—Israel’s chief of military intelligence tendered his resignation on Monday, becoming the country’s first senior official to step down in acknowledgment of the security and intelligence failures that enabled Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the head of the military’s intelligence directorate, will leave his position after he requested to resign, the military said. Haliva, a 38-year veteran of the military, said in a resignation letter he would leave as soon as a replacement is appointed, a process that could take at least several weeks.

The resignation comes after a public outcry within Israel over the failure of the Israeli government, military, and spy agencies to prevent the October attack. Hundreds of Hamas fighters spilled into Israel from Gaza, killing 1,200 people according to Israeli authorities, seizing more than 200 hostages and cutting a path of destruction across southern Israel.

Israel responded by launching its war in Gaza that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to local health officials. The numbers don’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

The Hamas attack and resulting war have destabilized the Middle East, resulting in an exchange of direct fire between Israel and Iran that pushed the two countries to the brink of open war.

Some Israelis, including families of the hostages and survivors of the attack, have called for more senior Israeli leaders to take responsibility for the intelligence failure. Though some Israeli officials have apologized for allowing the attack, none resigned while the country’s military and security establishment mobilized during the war in Gaza.

Israeli observers expected that senior military officials would remain in their posts while they are fighting the war, and foresee an official reckoning whenever the war ends.

“The Intelligence Directorate under my command did not stand up to its mission" regarding Hamas’s attack, Haliva wrote in his resignation letter, which is addressed to the military chief of staff.

“At the start of the war, I expressed to you my desire to take responsibility and end my role," he also said. “Now, after more than six and a half months, and alongside the commencement of investigations, I am asking to finish my job and retire from the Israel Defense Forces."

Haliva said he expected Israel to launch a high-level investigative commission to inspect “all parties and reasons that led to these difficult events" on Oct. 7.

Within Israel, Haliva is broadly considered one of the top Israeli officials shouldering blame for the intelligence and operational failure that resulted in Hamas’s ability to launch the attack with impunity. Israeli security analysts and media have alleged that Haliva’s military-intelligence directorate shifted resources away from Hamas before the attack and dismissed warning signs of Hamas’s impending assault.

The military generally hasn’t commented on the accusations, which will likely be addressed by investigative bodies. Although Israel’s military has already begun some internal assessments related to the attack, the country has largely deferred investigating its top leaders and public institutions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not taken personal responsibility for the intelligence and security failures around the attack, has promised to look into the matter after the end of the war in Gaza.

Write to Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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