OPINION / VIEW OF AN EXPERT — Israeli intelligence has regained its sea legs. After last month's terrorist attack by Hamas, it is clear that the Shin Bet, Mossad and Israeli military intelligence are helping the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prosecute the war in a smart and fast way.
Just look at the activity of the Israeli intelligence services in the last few weeks.
– Mossad Director David Barnea travels the region focusing on hostage negotiations. Now he is in place, a key player for the Israeli government, because the hostage issue is of extreme importance to Israel. Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar was also in Egypt last week.
– Shin Bet hit the team was created to track down the Hamas members responsible for 10/7, according to various press reports. Together with the Mossad, they will have a long view similar to how the Mossad killed the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the Munich massacre in 1972. The operation could take years. Anyone associated with Hamas is now a target, including the political leadership in places like Qatar.
– Israeli intelligence support to the IDF in Gaza has increased, including (according to the IDF Twitter/X channel) systematic killing of high-value Hamas targets. Israel claims to have eliminated half of the fighting battalions, with several thousand Hamas operatives reportedly killed. It should be noted that the number of rocket launches from Gaza has also decreased dramatically. The IDF also captured Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza. Very importantly, IDF casualties, while tragic for the Israeli public, are lower than expected. In short, the IDF, supported by Israeli intelligence, is doing much better than expected.
– Former Israeli intelligence officials I spoke to noted a tremendous sense of resolve in Israel's national security community. The campaign to Gaza to destroy Hamas is an existential struggle for them. This sentiment cuts across the Israeli political spectrum. Two things can be true at once. That Israelis, including most of the national security community, hate Prime Minister Netanyahu. At the same time, they are united in their absolute demand to destroy Hamas.
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US intelligence is now back in the game. Similar to the Israeli recovery after 10/7, American intelligence services were mobilized. America's Intelligence Community (IC) has essentially moved on Hamas target to Israel because we thought the Shin Bet had Hamas covered. But Israel failed and we were left blind. Yet even the US has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and is reportedly back in collection mode.
Just look at the current position of the US intelligence service.
– The US reportedly collected signal intelligenceaccording to The Wall Street Journal which indicated that Hamas was using Al-Shifa Hospital as a command and control hub (C2). This suggests that the US IC has indeed diverted resources into the conflict.
– US declassified those findings which in my opinion was clearly designed to give the Israelis some breathing room. The audience for the US action is both global (ie, to face international outrage over Israel's siege of the hospital) and domestic, as the Biden administration was imposed internally within the Democratic Party ecosystem.
US IC support for the IDF reportedly includes Mq-9 drone these are air missions over Gaza to retrieve hostages.
And, according to him, there has been widespread intelligence sharing with Israel Press Releases.
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CIA Director Burns was too traveling around the regionfor various reasons, which according to press reports included a focus on hostage negotiations.
What's next for both intelligence services? In the near future, both the Israeli and US intelligence communities will focus on identifying the location and locating the hostages. But in my opinion it is more tactical. It's not strategic – because Israel will consider the pause to recover the hostages a pause, not a ceasefire. Indeed, the greatest strategic concern in the intelligence world is the prospect of regional escalation.
All eyes in the news world are therefore on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
Tensions between the IDF and Hezbollah rose sharply. And press reports indicate that there is some concern in the US administration that Israel may want to fight Hezbollah. This was reportedly the position of Israeli Minister Benny Gantz. However, according to some press reports, Defense Secretary Austin warned Gantz against this in a call a few days ago.
Worryingly, Israel and Hezbollah follow the ladder of escalation, and both are climbing it. There is no doubt that the Pentagon is concerned. Two carrier battle groups, 16 aircraft squadrons and a US nuclear submarine with 150+ battlefield-deployed Tomahawk cruise missiles are all deployed to deter Hezbollah (and indeed Iran) from opening another front in the north. If the ball is dropped, it is likely that the US will engage in strikes against Hezbollah targets. As such, a key intelligence-gathering challenge for the US and Israeli intelligence communities is to uncover Hezbollah's plans and intentions, which can actually change from day to day. It is a dynamic situation that requires constant monitoring.
Equally important to the US is our heated battle with Iran through its proxies in Syria and Iraq. Our current efforts at deterrence are simply not working. The US military hit two places a few days ago, which was the right thing to do. But we just can't seem to contain this. Iran is not listening. The Pentagon is frustrated, according to media reports. So the US intelligence community will be laser-focused on gathering information about Iranian decision-making and what they will do with their proxies. We may have to escalate to de-escalate before US forces are killed.
The credibility of both Israeli and US intelligence is at stake regarding what was ultimately found at al-Shifa Hospital. The IDF video showing the weapons found in al-Shifa is certainly significant because it shows Hamas using the hospital, which is technically a war crime. As video The hostages are being moved around the hospital on 10/7. That said, given the US and Israeli claims that the hospital housed a major C2 node for Hamas, it will likely require more evidence – such as video of the actual tunnels under the hospital – to back up the intelligence claims and calm some international concerns about Israeli moves at the hospital. Confirming the intelligence gives Israel more diplomatic runway to prosecute the war in Gaza.
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