Five Hamas leaders secretly planned the bloody invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, with 70 commandos from the terrorist group’s elite Nukhba Force leading the charge across the Gaza border, the London-based, pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Citing Palestinian sources close to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s “military” wing, the newspaper disclosed that these 70 terrorists received training that focused on infiltrating Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip. They pledged secrecy following the training despite being unaware of any specific plans for an operation.
The tightly kept secret was intended to prevent leaks to Israeli intelligence services, which were caught by surprise by the attack and failed to respond quickly.
Five Hamas leaders planned the assault: Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip; Muhammed Deif, who heads Hamas’s “military” forces; Mohammed Sinwar, younger brother of Yahya Sinwar and commander of Hamas’s Khan Yunis Brigade; Rouhi Mushtaha, a Hamas leader close to Yahya Sinwar; and Ayman Nofal, a senior commander in the al-Qassam Brigades who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the first weeks of the war.
According to the sources, many Hamas brigade commanders did not know about the Oct. 7 attack plans, while some were given limited instructions about their tasks. Al-Qassam Brigades’ unit leaders were notified three days ahead of the preparations and the attack plan, without being told of the date it would be executed. They met with regional brigade commanders who were assigned tasks and then prepared their forces.
The leader of the Gaza rocket unit, Ayman Siyam, was instructed to fire hundreds of rockets during the Oct. 7 attack. Siyam was killed by an Israeli strike on a Hamas tunnel along with Ahmed Ghandour, the head of the Islamist group’s “military” wing in the northern Strip.
Orders at midnight
Saturday morning, Oct. 7, was chosen “based on reports of complete calm on the borders,” the sources said. The order to prepare for the mass invasion was given at midnight, hours before the attack. Field commanders and elite forces began moving into their positions.
Hamas leaders were briefed hours before the attack, instructing them to go into hiding. Senior leaders, including Hamas’s top political leader Ismail Haniyeh and deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in an airstrike in Beirut last week, knew about an impending attack but were given details only a few hours before.
Explosives placed strategically were set off at the Israel-Gaza barrier, allowing the terrorists to breach the border. Terrorists also used gliders and parachutes to position fighters around the northwestern Negev. They invaded under the cover of thousands of rockets fired into Israeli territory.
According to the sources, the primary plan involved capturing Israeli soldiers, but it turned into a more extensive attack after the soldiers were captured in the initial stages and there was no strong Israeli response.
An hour and a half after the initial breach of the barrier, remaining al-Qassam units were mobilized to support the units inside the Israeli communities. Other terrorist factions were later informed about the attack and began participating. Around 3,000 terrorists in total participated in the attack.
By the end of the assault, around 1,200 people were murdered, mostly civilians, thousands more wounded and some 240 taken hostage back to Gaza. One hundred thirty-six are believed to be still in Gaza although some of those are thought to have died there.
The terrorists committed rape, gang rape, sexual abuse, burning alive, mutilations, torture and desecration of corpses as they rampaged across the northwestern Negev for hours, facing little resistance from Israeli security forces.