Israel’s military intelligence chief resigns over failure to prevent Hamas attack on Oct. 7

Israel Palestinian
Cars are on fire after they were hit by rockets from the Gaza Strip in Ashkelon, Israel, on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File

By TIA GOLDENBERG Associated Press

The head of Israeli military intelligence said Monday he would resign because of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, becoming the first senior figure to step down over his role in the stunning failure to anticipate or quickly respond to the deadliest assault in Israel’s history.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva’s decision could set the stage for more resignations among top Israeli security officials. Hamas militants blasted through Israel’s border defenses on Oct. 7, rampaging through communities unchallenged for hours and killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians, while taking roughly 250 hostages into Gaza.

The attack set off the war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its seventh month.

Palestinians flee south on the third day of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas at Salah al-Din road in central Gaza Strip on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023.

“The intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I carry that black day with me ever since, day after day, night after night. I will carry the horrible pain of the war with me forever,” Haliva wrote in his resignation letter, which was provided by the military.

Haliva said he would remain in his position until a replacement is found. He said he had intended to resign immediately after Oct. 7, but stayed on through the initial part of the war and was resigning as the army’s internal investigations gather pace.

His announcement came at the start of Passover, a major Jewish holiday, and as military operations in Gaza have slowed in recent weeks ahead of a possible offensive on the southern city of Rafah.

The timing of any resignations by security and military officials has been complicated by the ongoing war in Gaza and battles with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border. Tensions with Iran are also at a high following attacks between the two enemies.

Some military experts have said resignations at a time when Israel is engaged on multiple fronts is irresponsible and could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Shortly after the attack, Haliva and others had publicly said that they shouldered blame for not preventing the Oct. 7 assault.

Other leaders have stopped short, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has said he will answer tough questions about his role but has not outright acknowledged direct responsibility for allowing the attack to unfold.

Netanyahu Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli Prime Minister and the head of Likud party, accompanied by his wife Sara waves to his supporters Wednesday after first exit poll results for the Israeli Parliamentary election.AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

He has also refused to step down, even as a growing protest movement demands early elections.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid welcomed Haliva’s resignation, saying it was “justified and dignified.”

“It would be appropriate for Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

The Hamas attack, which came on a Jewish holiday, caught Israel and its vaunted security establishment entirely off guard. Israelis’ sense of faith in their military — seen by most Jews as one of the country’s most trustworthy institutions — was shattered in the face of Hamas’ onslaught. The resignation could help restore some of that trust.