Hamas militants may have planned their deadly attack in southern Israel more than a year in advance, documents shared with Sky News suggest.
Eight pages, labelled ‘Top Secret’, are said to have been found on the bodies of fighters in the battle zone.
The front cover of the document bundle was dated ‘October 2022’.
It could mean plans were already well established at least 12 months in advance of the attacks.
The documents, written in Arabic, are said to have been recovered by Israeli soldiers and emergency responders.
Sky News showed the documents to Hamas experts who said that while they are difficult to confirm with 100% confidence, they are likely to be genuine.
Four pages were posted publicly to a Telegram channel run by the South First Responders – a volunteer group – helping recover bodies.
A further four pages were subsequently shared with Sky News – all relating to an apparent military plan to target Mefalsim, a kibbutz near Gaza.
The plan, however, was not successful with militants reportedly pushed back by local security – and it’s believed nobody inside the kibbutz was killed.
The suggestion Hamas plans may have been at an advanced stage in October of last year has been described as a “very serious” Israeli intelligence failure.
Joe Truzman, research analyst at the Foundation for Defence and Democracies Long War Journal, said it’s “unlikely this type of operation took a couple of months to put together”.
He added: “This attack involved multiple armed organisations and had many moving parts, including training commandos to use paragliders, which is something that has not been done before by Hamas.
“With the number of armed groups involved, it’s tough to say how Israel’s intelligence community missed this.
“I believe Israel expected a similar attack from Hezbollah in the north, but not from Palestinian groups in Gaza.”
One document is titled “Mission Kibbutz Mefalsim” and outlines the structure of the team sent in as consisting of “a commander and two squads of five people”.
It also suggests that this is “phase A” of the attack.
Another document describes plans to “take soldiers and civilians as prisoners and take hostages then negotiate about them”.
While one team was designated to open holes in fences, others were assigned to provide artillery fire.
The document states: “Group one opens a gap in the wire fence and attack the kibbutz from the south.”
Another section shows what equipment would be needed to cut through wire and information on the length of time it would take for militants to force their way through.
One example is the estimation that “third generation wire” would take “40 seconds”.
Some pages also detail predictions on the length of time it would take Israeli reinforcements to arrive, with warnings that troops stationed nearby could arrive at the kibbutz “within 3-5 minutes”.
Hamas documents have been seized by Israeli forces following previous confrontations, including in 2014.
Some have questioned why the documents display dates in the Gregorian calendar format rather than the Islamic calendar, given that Hamas is an Islamist organisation.
However, the experts who Sky News spoke to noted that this is not entirely out of the ordinary, with one pointing out that this has been observed on documents published by other Islamist organisations.
The first page of the document also shows the emblem used by Hamas’ armed wing – the al Qassam brigades.
The image is the same one displayed on other Hamas documents and on its public Telegram channel.
The group South First Responders first started posting collected videos and photos on Sunday 8 October.
Their first posts were from the site of the Supernova festival site in Re’im and then subsequently from various settlements.
One image is of a map that details a route Hamas would take near the settlements of Kisufim and Ein HaShlosha.
Here is that map imposed onto a satellite image.
Sky News has verified and located videos that show fighters along this route on Saturday 7 October.
More than 1,300 Israelis were killed in the attacks in southern Israel and led to the country declaring war on Hamas.
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