Hamas planned to invade Judea and Samaria – report

The terror leaders wanted to set off a wider conflict by attacking Jewish towns on the other side of Israel in a second stage of its surprise assault.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israeli intelligence has gathered evidence over the last several weeks suggesting that Hamas had intended to go much further than the Gaza envelope area as a second stage of its surprise invasion of October 7, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

Citing several anonymous Israeli and American officials, the paper said that at least one Hamas unit “carried reconnaissance information and maps suggesting an intention to continue the assault” all the way to Judea and Samaria, had the initial attack been more successful.

“If that had occurred, it would have been a huge propaganda win — a symbolic blow not only against Israel, but also against the Palestinian Authority (PA),” said one U.S. official.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority fears Hamas and its growing popularity in the cities the PA ostensibly controls in Judea and Samaria.

Hamas officials have admitted their surprise over their initial achievements.

Some 3,000 terrorists stormed the border, overrunning 22 communities, most of them bordering the Gaza Strip, but also including the towns of Sderot and Ofakim, the latter of which is 17 miles from Gaza.

They massacred 1,200 people, the largest single Jewish death toll since the Holocaust, and kidnapped 240, including the elderly and infants.

However, after over a day of mayhem, the IDF stopped their progress in heavy clashes that left most of the Hamas terrorists who had crossed the border dead, injured, or captured.

Terrorist interrogations and documents found on bodies of slain terrorists showed that they had orders to go further into the interior of Israel, with enough food and ammunition for “several days,” said officials.

“They planned a second phase, including in major Israeli cities and military bases,” said an Israeli official.

It was very much part of the Hamas strategy to set off a severe Israeli reaction, as its officials have said in public several times.

They certainly succeeded in this part of the plan, as Israel declared war on Hamas the same evening and launched Operation Swords of Iron with a nonstop bombing campaign of military targets in Gaza. The IDF is now in its third week of a ground incursion as well.

Hamas leaders were prepared to suffer heavy casualties, said the intelligence officials and counter-terrorism professionals cited in the Post report, if it would lead to a violent uprising in the PA and torpedo plans for additional normalization deals between Arab countries and Israel.

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“They were very clear-eyed as to what would happen to Gaza on the day after,” a senior Israeli who had access to intercepted messages and interrogations of prisoners told the Washington daily.

So far, with determined and nonstop raids in Judea and Samaria, the IDF has managed to prevent any large-scale attacks in the area, although several Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. More than 1,400 terror suspects have been arrested, most of them members of Hamas.

Unlike during Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021, Hamas has also failed to stir up Arab-Israelis to support their cause. Two years ago, massive riots occurred in mixed cities like Jerusalem, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and Jaffa, with several Jews being murdered and massive damage caused to property.

Hamas has had more success in the Arab world, and even in the West, as a result of the suffering it has caused its own people. Saudi Arabia has put on hold any contacts regarding normalization with Israel and has sharply criticized the Jewish state for its “crimes” against the Palestinian people due to the devastation it is causing in Gaza while hunting Hamas. Relations with Abraham Accord countries have also been strained, with the UAE, for example, sponsoring an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security Council.

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A few South American countries have broken diplomatic relations with Israel, accusing the Jewish state of trying to commit genocide. Hundreds of thousands around the world, including in the West, have demonstrated against Israel and in support of the Palestinians since the aerial campaign began and pictures of injured Gazans and flattened buildings have inundated news reports of the conflict.