CIA providing intel on Hamas leaders to Israel – NYT
The CIA is helping Israel gather intelligence on top Hamas officials, for targeting purposes, unnamed US officials have told the New York Times.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan ordered the creation of a task force focused on Hamas in the days following the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel, the sources claimed. The unit is focused exclusively on high-level officials.
The CIA also raised its priority level for Hamas from level four to two, officials said, freeing up additional funding for the collection of intelligence. However, with Gaza’s borders even more tightly locked down than they were before the war and communications networks being deliberately disrupted by Israel, the Times acknowledged that “it will take time to develop new [human] sources.”
Washington had previously relied on West Jerusalem for information about Hamas but was alarmed to learn that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had possessed the details of the group’s plans to strike Israel, code-named Jericho Wall, for over a year without sharing the information widely within Israel or with the US.
The US reportedly hopes that focusing on high-level Palestinian militants will reverse some of the negative fallout from West Jerusalem’s devastation of Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure. Officials told the Times they were concerned that Israel’s focus on low-level Hamas operatives was “misguided,” explaining these could be easily replaced. Additionally, they said, the attendant risk to the civilian population was excessive and could even galvanize non-combatants to join the militant resistance.
The head of US Central Command, General Michael Erik Kurilla, and several other high-level military officials have traveled to Israel on more than one occasion to urge them to focus on Hamas leaders instead of mid- or low-level fighters, according to the report. Israel claimed at the end of 2023 that it had killed about a third of the 20,000 to 25,000 Hamas fighters believed to reside in Gaza.
Killing or capturing the central Hamas figures believed to be responsible for the October 7 raid that killed 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped another 240 back to Gaza would be a major public relations victory for the beleaguered Netanyahu government. US officials believe at least one of them – the group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar – is holed up in a tunnel system deep under the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The other, military commander Mohammed Deif, has avoided capture by Israel’s security services for decades.
Israel has killed upwards of 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza since October 7 and seriously injured tens of thousands more, according to the enclave’s Health Ministry. The resulting international outcry recently culminated in charges of genocide filed against Israel by South Africa in the International Court of Justice.