In the seek for hostages, U.S. is Israel’s key intelligence companion | EUROtoday

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The daring and lethal hostage rescue that Israeli navy forces mounted in Gaza final Saturday relied on an enormous intelligence-gathering operation wherein the United States has been Israel’s most necessary companion.

Since the Hamas assaults of Oct. 7, the United States has ramped up intelligence assortment on the militant group in Gaza and is sharing a rare quantity of drone footage, satellite tv for pc imagery, communications intercepts and information evaluation utilizing superior software program, a few of it powered by synthetic intelligence, in line with present and former U.S. and Israeli intelligence officers.

The result’s an intelligence-sharing partnership of uncommon quantity, even for 2 nations which have traditionally labored collectively on areas of mutual concern, together with counterterrorism and stopping Iran from constructing a nuclear weapon.

In interviews, Israeli officers mentioned they had been grateful for the U.S. help, which in some instances has given the Israelis distinctive capabilities they lacked earlier than Hamas’s shock cross-border assaults. But in addition they had been defensive about their very own spying prowess, insisting that the United States was, for essentially the most half, not giving them something they couldn’t get hold of themselves. That place might be laborious to sq. with the apparent failures of the Israeli intelligence equipment to detect and reply to the warning indicators of Hamas’s planning.

The U.S.-Israel partnership is, at instances, tense. Some U.S. officers have been annoyed by Israel’s demand for extra intelligence, which they mentioned is insatiable and infrequently depends on flawed assumptions that the United States could be holding again some data.

In a briefing with reporters on the White House final month, nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan mentioned Washington “has provided an intense range of assets and capabilities and expertise.” Responding to a May 11 Washington Post report, Sullivan mentioned that the intelligence is “not tied or conditioned on anything else. It is not limited. We are not holding anything back. We are providing every asset, every tool, every capability,” Sullivan mentioned.

Other officers, together with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, fear that intelligence the United States gives may very well be making its means into the repositories of knowledge that Israeli navy forces use to conduct airstrikes or different navy operations, and that Washington has no efficient technique of monitoring how Israel makes use of the U.S. data.

The Biden administration has forbidden Israel from utilizing any U.S.-supplied intelligence to focus on common Hamas fighters in navy operations. The intelligence is barely for use for finding the hostages, eight of whom have U.S. citizenship, in addition to the highest management of Hamas — together with Yehiya Sinwar, the alleged architect of the Oct. 7 assaults, and Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s navy wing. The State Department in 2015 designated each males as terrorists. Three of the eight U.S. hostages have been confirmed useless, and their our bodies are nonetheless being held in Gaza, in line with Israeli officers.

This article relies on interviews with greater than a dozen present and former U.S. and Israeli officers in Washington, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most of them spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate intelligence operations.

The United States offered a number of the intelligence used to find and ultimately rescue 4 Israeli hostages final week, The Post has reported. The data, which included overhead imagery, seems to have been secondary to what Israel collected by itself forward of the operation, which resulted within the deaths of greater than 270 Palestinians, in line with Gaza well being officers, making it one of many deadliest single occasions within the eight-month-old conflict.

Before the Oct. 7 assaults, the U.S. intelligence group didn’t contemplate Hamas a precedence goal, present and former officers mentioned. That modified nearly instantly following the group’s assaults on Israel, which killed greater than 1,200 civilians and troopers and netted upward of 250 hostages.

Personnel from the U.S. navy’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) started working alongside CIA officers within the company’s station in Israel, in line with U.S. officers. And personnel from the Defense Intelligence Agency started assembly with their counterparts within the nation “on a daily basis,” one U.S. official mentioned.

The State Department additionally despatched a particular hostage envoy who met publicly with Israel’s lead official overseeing hostage rescue efforts. FBI brokers are also working in Israel to research Hamas assaults on U.S. residents and helping in hostage restoration efforts.

In the primary weeks of the conflict, Israeli officers answerable for finding the hostages within the densely populated Gaza Strip requested particular data from the United States to assist bridge gaps in what they knew from their very own sources, present and former U.S. and Israeli officers mentioned. This included particular items of knowledge, in addition to applied sciences and experience for analyzing massive volumes of images and overlaying completely different photographs to create extra detailed footage, together with in three dimensions, of the terrain in Gaza.

They offered some “capabilities to us that we never had before Oct. 7,” mentioned one senior Israeli official, who declined to offer particulars. But a second senior Israeli official indicated that the United States has offered extremely detailed satellite tv for pc imagery that Israel lacks.

Sullivan, the White House nationwide safety adviser, burdened that U.S. forces didn’t take part within the mission to rescue the 4 hostages. “There were no U.S. forces, no U.S. boots on the ground involved in this operation. We did not participate militarily in this operation,” Sullivan instructed CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. He famous that “we have generally provided support to the [Israel Defense Forces] so that we can try to get all of the hostages home, including the American hostages who are still being held.”

In addition to intelligence, that assist has consisted of members of JSOC, the elite Special Operations pressure which has deep expertise in hostage rescues. Members of the group have been working in Israel, in partnership with U.S. intelligence officers, since shortly after the conflict started, U.S. officers mentioned.

In October, JSOC forces within the area had been ready to deploy in Gaza to rescue U.S. residents that Hamas was holding, mentioned present and former U.S. officers conversant in planning for what would have been an exceptionally harmful mission.

“If we managed to unilaterally get information that we could act on, and we thought we could actually get U.S. people out alive, we could act, but there was genuinely very little information specifically about U.S. hostages,” one official mentioned.

The particulars of the rescue operation, which was ready by members of JSOC primarily based in Cyprus, had been beforehand reported by journalist Jack Murphy on his Substack, “The High Side.”

Last week’s profitable hostage rescue relied on exact details about the captives’ location. That degree of “actionable” intelligence is one thing Israel has lacked for years in Gaza, owing to an overreliance on know-how and a failure to construct a community of human spies on the bottom. The paucity of human intelligence, partly, was accountable for Israel’s failure to detect and perceive Hamas’s planning for the Oct. 7 assaults, present and former officers within the nation mentioned.

Recent efforts to find the hostages have underscored the significance of human intelligence. In May, Israeli forces recovered the stays of some hostages after the interrogation of a Hamas fighter, who pointed troopers to their location, Israeli officers mentioned. Interrogations of prisoners captured for the reason that conflict started have develop into an necessary part of the general intelligence image, officers mentioned.

Israeli intelligence analysts even have discovered helpful items of intelligence among the many servers, computer systems, cellphones, notebooks and different paperwork recovered from Hamas hideouts or command posts, officers mentioned. U.S. analysts have helped mine these sources for clues about hostage whereabouts, they famous. One senior Israeli official mentioned that the fusion of knowledge obtained from digital and bodily information with different sources of intelligence has helped Israel find hostages throughout two rescue operations that preceded the one final week.

Before the Oct. 7 assaults, Israel blanketed Gaza in digital surveillance, in some instances monitoring Hamas members through their telephones. “We were up on every toilet in Gaza. If you were sleeping with your wife, we heard you,” mentioned a former senior Israeli intelligence official.

But the intelligence equipment additionally grew to become overly reliant on know-how to gather intelligence, whereas evaluation atrophied, present and former Israeli officers mentioned. Historically, the function of the navy’s much-celebrated Unit 8200 was to gather data and share it with different components of the Israeli intelligence group, one present and one former member mentioned. Experts with the unit added their very own evaluation and perspective. The former member mentioned he usually interacted along with his colleagues from Mossad and Shin Bet, respectively accountable for intelligence and state safety.

“This has changed in recent years,” mentioned the previous member, who served in a senior management place. Unit 8200 used to make choices on who acquired which piece of knowledge. Now, he mentioned, it has made a precedence of creating new know-how and contributing its intelligence haul to what’s often called “the pool,” a repository from which different intelligence components can take data.

Other present and former officers echoed this critique, saying that Israel’s digital spies forgot easy methods to do primary intelligence features. The group was awash in information, however missing in evaluation of it. “The system became spoiled,” the previous member mentioned.

In an announcement, a spokesperson for the IDF known as these criticisms “false” and mentioned they “harm the war effort of service members, who have been working for the past [eight] months, in both near and far arenas, to assist the forces on the ground, in the air and at sea, and to protect the people of Israel.”

Compounding the issue, Israeli officers had locked onto a “conceptzia,or elementary conception that Hamas was extra all for getting wealthy and ruling Gaza than attacking Israel. The time period — coined after the disastrous intelligence failure to anticipate the shock 1973 Yom Kippur War — has develop into a shorthand in Israeli safety circles for the strategic failure to acknowledge the true nature of the menace Hamas posed. Officials ignored what, in hindsight, appear to be apparent warning indicators, together with navy coaching maneuvers by Hamas fighters that senior leaders dismissed as a result of they didn’t comport to the overarching principle concerning the group’s intentions.

“We thought Hamas wouldn’t dare attack,” a former senior intelligence official mentioned. The Oct. 7 assaults have shattered that concept and made Hamas a prime precedence for Israel, in addition to its companions within the United States.

Any intelligence the United States gives, or offers Israel direct entry to, is barely for use for hostage-location efforts and monitoring down Hamas management, U.S. and Israeli officers mentioned. Israel is prohibited from utilizing any U.S. data for concentrating on common Hamas members in any navy operations, together with airstrikes.

The guidelines for a way the intelligence is offered and used are spelled out in long-standing formal preparations which can be scrutinized by legal professionals within the U.S. intelligence group, in addition to new directives from the White House following the Oct. 7 assaults.

But virtually talking, Israel is on its honor to not use U.S.-supplied intelligence for proscribed functions, present and former U.S. officers conversant in the intelligence-sharing relationship mentioned. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has questioned how administration officers can ensure that Israel isn’t utilizing the intelligence it receives as a part of its navy marketing campaign in opposition to Hamas, which has resulted in tens of hundreds of civilian casualties.

Crow, an Army fight veteran, co-authored laws enacted final 12 months requiring the director of nationwide intelligence to inform Congress if intelligence that the United States gave one other nation ends in civilian casualties.

“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu is pursuing a failed strategy in Gaza. The terrible civilian toll, famine, and lack of a coherent strategy are deeply concerning,” Crow mentioned in an announcement to The Post. “I will continue to conduct robust oversight to ensure intelligence sharing is in line with U.S. interests.”

Some officers famous that the data regarding potential hostage places may even have a twin function: Hostages will likely be surrounded by Hamas fighters, who’re guarding them and utilizing them as human shields. Some officers fear that the United States doesn’t have ample oversight to make sure that Israel isn’t utilizing hostage intelligence as de facto concentrating on data for these lower-level Hamas members.

Israeli companies “are very careful not to use what the U.S. gives them operationally if that’s not allowed,” mentioned one serving member of Unit 8200, the alerts intelligence group. “Intelligence sharing with the United States is very good. There are direct relationships at the working level, and it’s important to preserve them.”

Harris reported from Washington, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Missy Ryan and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.