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IDF chief puts hold on external probe into Oct. 7 failures

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi also requested that State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman hold off on launching an investigation.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Jan. 23, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Jan. 23, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi has put a hold on an external probe into the failures leading up to and during the Hamas massacre of 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7, Ynet reported on Thursday.

Halevi reportedly decided to halt the inquiry until after the military completes its internal investigation. Halevi also requested that State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman hold off on launching a separate probe until after Hamas is defeated to avoid hurting the IDF’s war effort.

The army chief was said to have told Englman that a public investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office would “distract commanders and harm the ability and quality of the IDF’s ongoing operational probe” and “prevent implementing the lessons necessary to achieve war goals.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet Secretary, Yossi Fuchs, met with Englman and likewise asked him to postpone his inquiry.

Responding to Halevi on Thursday afternoon, Englman insisted that “the severe failures that led to the events of Oct. 7 require a deep and fundamental examination by the State Comptroller’s Office of all echelons, political, military and civilian.

“Audit teams were instructed not to hold tours of IDF bases and meetings with IDF officials so as not to divert their attention from the war,” Englman added in a letter to Halevi.

The reported decision to halt the external IDF investigation and call on Englman to follow suit apparently came after government ministers expressed objections to the committee members chosen by Halevi.

According to reports, some ministers were particularly incensed with his intention to appoint former chief of staff and defense minister Shaul Mofaz to the panel, due to his role in the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and public activism against Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

“I am happy that the chief of staff understood and made the right decision,” Israeli National Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben Gvir told local media on Thursday, adding: “These are people whose own deeds must be probed, not the other way around.”

Around 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The terror group is believed to be holding 136 men, women and children in Gaza as hostages.

Israel’s Walla news site on Thursday cited military sources as claiming that while the IDF was aware of Hamas’s repeated attempts to blow up the security fence on the Gaza border in preparation for the Oct. 7 attacks, it opted to dismiss the rehearsals as a “provocation.”

Walla said IDF surveillance teams warned their commanders of attempts to damage the barrier, and the intelligence info was subsequently forwarded to higher-ups at the IDF’s Gaza Division and Southern Command.

Senior army officials, including combat engineers, strongly criticized the IDF’s response to the warnings, according to the news site. IDF reservists told Walla that if the warnings had been followed up, the Gaza fence could have quickly been reinforced, which could have delayed or even prevented the invasion of thousands of terrorists on Oct. 7.

In October, The New York Times reported that Unit 8200, the IDF’s signals intelligence unit, stopped listening to Hamas’s handheld radios a year before the attacks, deciding it was a “waste of effort.” It was one of a series of failures said to have led to the Hamas massacre.

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