Hamas’ tsunami of death was month in the making

It was not the first time Palestinian militants had attempted to use paragliders. Motorised parachutes were discovered in the Gaza strip’s Zikim Beach area as far back as 2003.

But yesterday’s assault on Israel marked the first successful use of a tactic underwritten by Iran’s notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

“The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was aware of plans by Hamas to use paragliders, but this is the first time it has been achieved with any success,” said Colonel Richard Kemp, an ex-British army commander with extensive links to Israeli defence agencies.

“The launching of Iranian drones has also been attempted in the past from Lebanon, but these were successfully intercepted.”

The attacks – which Israeli defence chiefs say penetrated a number “active sites” across the south – were the first major infiltration since a series of deep tunnels was discovered, and a new six-metre tall barrier built along the Gaza border.

Experts say the coordinated air, sea and ground assaults would have taken months to plan, belying claims by Hamas that so-called “Operation al-Aqsa flood” was in direct response to events that had befallen the politically sensitive mosque in East Jerusalem last week.

Israel is no stranger to Islamist plots, and boasts a good track record in intercepting them.

In July, defence minister Yoav Gallant revealed that Israel and its allies had foiled more than 50 Iranian plots targeting Jewish interests in Israel and across the world in recent years.

It followed the successful thwarting of an attempt to smuggle in Iranian-produced explosives from Jordan.

The real fear, experts said last night, was that yesterday’s attack happened not because Israel failed to gain intelligence, but because political infighting meant that it was discounted.

“To say this is the result of a massive intelligence failure is an understatement –but the real question is why the world’s most capable intelligence organisations allowed it to happen,” said Catherine

Perez-Shakdam, research fellow at the ACLS think-tank.

“One explanation could be that there are those in government or the IDF who oppose [Benjamin] Netanyahu and may have intentionally or unintentionally downplayed the significance of intelligence briefings they were receiving because their political bias saw these as the product of a hawkish mentality. This is a real problem that Netanyahu will have to address.”

Both Colonel Kemp and Ms Perez-Shakdam said Iran’s shadowy hand was behind the attacks.

“We know too well how Hamas is supported and funded by Iran and the IRGC – as are Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ),” said Col Kemp. “It’s not only about training.

“It is likely that Hamas was pressed into launching these attacks by an Iran that will do anything to prevent normalisation between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. This was the real trigger.”

In 2020 Israel reached normalisation with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and upgraded ties with Morocco and Sudan, despite talks over Palestinian statehood being frozen for years.

And relations with Saudi Arabia, ­traditionally one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause, were beginning to progress.

“Hamas knows they cannot beat Israel militarily, and they are not interested in any negotiations,” said Col Kemp.

“What they and Iran want to do is to see Israel isolated and vilified diplomatically by the international community. They know a lot of Palestinians will die and that will create demonstrations around the world.

“The BBC is already reporting that this is an excuse for Netanyahu to go into Gaza –that’s the kind of response they want. They want to shift the blame on Tel Aviv.”

And the plan may be working. Yesterday Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that armed Palestinian factions intend to expand the ongoing battle in Gaza to the West Bank and Jerusalem. “The battle moved into the heart of the ‘zionist entity’,” he said.

And his calls for Arab nations to resist normalising relations with Israel were ­gaining traction.

Last night the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group said that the surprise attack on Israel was in response to “Israel’s continued occupation and a message to those seeking normalisation with it”.

Saudi Arabia refused to condemn the attacks, saying it had warned of the dangers of Israeli treatment of Palestinians leading to an “explosion of the situation”.

Ms Perez-Shakdam said: “Iran’s weaponisation of Islam for political ends is a particularly unnerving development.

“Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam’s Two Holy Mosques, must unequivocally condemn this dangerous rhetoric, as must other Muslim nations.

“Anything less would risk the religion of Islam being lost to violent extremists, who don’t represent the vast majority of Muslims. This would be to the detriment of the global Muslim community.”

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