CIA Task Force Targets Top Hamas Leaders Following October Attack
In response to the October 7 attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the CIA has reportedly established a dedicated unit to assist Israel in gathering intelligence on high-ranking Hamas officials. Unnamed US officials informed The New York Times on Friday that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan initiated the creation of this task force shortly after the October attack.
The task force, exclusively focusing on high-level Hamas officials, aims to enhance targeting capabilities. In a strategic move, the CIA elevated the priority level for Hamas from four to two, unlocking additional funds for intelligence collection. However, challenges arise as Gaza’s borders remain tightly controlled, and communication networks are intentionally disrupted by Israel. The development of new human sources is anticipated to take time.
Previously relying on information from West Jerusalem, Washington expressed concern after discovering that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government possessed knowledge of Hamas’ plans, codenamed Jericho Wall, for over a year without widespread sharing.
Amidst worries about negative fallout from Israel’s actions in Gaza, US officials believe that concentrating on high-level Hamas figures could mitigate risks to civilians and potentially reverse the impact on public opinion. US Central Command’s General Michael Erik Kurilla and other high-level military officials have reportedly urged Israel to shift its focus from low-level operatives to Hamas leaders.
The US hopes that targeting central Hamas figures responsible for the October 7 raid, which resulted in 1,200 Israeli casualties and 240 kidnappings, would be a significant public relations victory for the Netanyahu government. Speculations suggest that Yahya Sinwar, the group’s leader in Gaza, may be hiding in a tunnel system beneath Khan Younis, while military commander Mohammed Deif has eluded capture for decades.
Since October 7, Israel has claimed to have killed about a third of the 20,000 to 25,000 Hamas fighters in Gaza. The overall toll in Gaza, however, has been staggering, with over 23,000 Palestinians killed and tens of thousands seriously injured, leading to international condemnation. South Africa recently filed charges of genocide against Israel in the International Court of Justice.