A week before its attack Hamas agreed to another truce with Israel. The agreement negotiated by Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations traded an end to border attacks for more imports, a bigger fishing zone and more work permits that allowed over 20,000 Gaza Muslims to enter Israel.
The agreement reached between Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and Sukkot, the conclusion of the High Holy Days season, offered an end to the explosives and rocks being hurled at Israeli soldiers on the border and the incendiary balloons starting fires on Israeli farms. And terrorist attacks on civilians like the murder of Batsheva Nigri: a kindergarten teacher shot and killed while driving in her car with her 12-year-old daughter.Qatar, a state sponsor of Hamas and an ally of the United States, claimed that it had “succeeded in de-escalating the situation in the Gaza Strip by mediating an understanding.” Hamas ended the border riots and Israelis went into the Sukkot holiday with an apparent calm. The Israeli army and security forces continued to focus on the West Bank, where much of the violence appeared to be coming from, rather than the Gaza Strip which seemed quiet. But the border attacks and the negotiated ceasefire had all been part of a feint.
Hamas had been working on a large-scale attack for two years. During this time it had calculatedly tamped down some of the violence and appeared amenable to informal truces in exchange for benefits. The results appeared so impressive that Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan bragged to Foreign Affairs magazine about “deescalating Gaza and restoring diplomacy”. These claims would be removed from the online version of the article.More seriously, Israel’s intelligence apparatus was so focused on Iran that it had stopped eavesdropping on Hamas as a waste of time. Two years without a major confrontation had convinced too many in Jerusalem and Washington D.C. that the situation was under control. 2023 had been the deadliest year in some time, but the violence was coming out of the West Bank. And that’s where the Israeli military and its domestic security forces were focused.