(photo credit: REUTERS)
Responding to scathing criticism from the IDF directed at the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and claims by its members that an early warning was provided prior to the summer conflict, the domestic intelligence agency on Thursday issued a clarification.
According to the Shin Bet's statement, it began receiving intelligence messages in January pointing to preparation and training by Hamas "ahead of a potential clash with Israel. It's appropriate to stress that at no point did Shin Bet members claim, including those interviewed for [the Channel 2 Uvda] program, that Shin Bet passed on a warning of a war with Hamas in July." From April onward, following new information, the Shin Bet put out a warning about Hamas intentions to carry out a big terror attack that could lead to a war.
"From the moment that intelligence about the attack was received, the IDF and Shin Bet placed all intelligence and operational systems on stand-by to thwart it. The preparations were carried out with full IDF-Shin Bet cooperation," the statement said.
Regarding the issue of attack tunnels, the Shin Bet said the defense establishment knew about the location of "a number of tunnels and their entrance shafts inside the Gaza Strip. However, the defense establishment did not have complete information about the route the tunnels took to infiltrate Israel, and about their exit shafts." An intensive effort was made to expose the tunnel threat from Gaza, the Shin Bet said. There was full cooperation with the IDF to save the lives of civilians and soldiers, it added.
"The IDF and Shin Bet will continue to work in full cooperation in the future to safeguard state security," the statement said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the heads of the IDF and the Shin Bet on Wednesday night, ordering them to settle their differences.
The meeting took place after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz sent a letter of complaint to Netanyahu to protest the conduct of the Shin Bet and its director, Yoram Cohen, and warning of a crisis of trust between the two bodies, in an unprecedented display of division within the defense establishment.
Shin Bet sources have maintained that they provided the alert several months before the outbreak of hostilities in July.
The IDF, as well as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, have dismissed the idea that an advance intelligence alert was received in the months that led up to the conflict. Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.