US Israel’s key intelligence partner in search for hostages

    WORLD  14 June 2024 - 14:33

    US intelligence agencies have provided an extraordinary amount of support to their Israeli counterparts. That assistance has helped find the missing but also raised concerns about the use of sensitive information.

    The daring and deadly hostage rescue that Israeli military forces mounted in Gaza relied on a massive intelligence-gathering operation in which the United States has been Israel’s most important partner, The Washington Post reports.

    Since the Hamas attacks of October 7, the United States has ramped up intelligence collection on the militant group in Gaza and is sharing an extraordinary amount of drone footage, satellite imagery, communications intercepts and data analysis using advanced software, some of it powered by artificial intelligence, according to current and former US and Israeli intelligence officials.

    The result is an intelligence-sharing partnership of rare volume, even for two countries that have historically worked together on areas of mutual concern, including counterterrorism and preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

    In interviews, Israeli officials said they were grateful for the US assistance, which in some cases has given the Israelis unique capabilities they lacked before Hamas’s surprise cross-border attacks. But they also were defensive about their own spying prowess, insisting that the United States was, for the most part, not giving them anything they couldn’t obtain themselves. That position can be hard to square with the obvious failures of the Israeli intelligence apparatus to detect and respond to the warning signs of Hamas’s planning.

    The US-Israel partnership is, at times, tense. Some US officials have been frustrated by Israel’s demand for more intelligence, which they said is insatiable and occasionally relies on flawed assumptions that the United States might be holding back some information.

    This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former US and Israeli officials in Washington, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations.

    The United States provided some of the intelligence used to locate and eventually rescue four Israeli hostages last week, The Post has reported. The information, which included overhead imagery, appears to have been secondary to what Israel collected on its own ahead of the operation, which resulted in the deaths of more than 270 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, making it one of the deadliest single events in the eight-month-old war.

    Before the October 7 attacks, the US intelligence community did not consider Hamas a priority target, current and former officials said. That changed almost immediately following the group’s attacks on Israel, which killed more than 1,200 civilians and soldiers and netted upward of 250 hostages.

    Personnel from the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) began working alongside CIA officers in the agency’s station in Israel, according to US officials. And personnel from the Defense Intelligence Agency began meeting with their counterparts in the country “on a daily basis,” one US official said.

    The State Department also sent a special hostage envoy who met publicly with Israel’s lead official overseeing hostage rescue efforts. FBI agents also are working in Israel to investigate Hamas attacks on US citizens and assisting in hostage recovery efforts.

    In the first weeks of the war, Israeli officials in charge of locating the hostages in the densely populated Gaza Strip requested specific information from the United States to help bridge gaps in what they knew from their own sources, current and former US and Israeli officials said. This included specific pieces of information, as well as technologies and expertise for analyzing large volumes of imagery and overlaying different images to create more detailed pictures, including in three dimensions, of the terrain in Gaza.

    They provided some “capabilities to us that we never had before October 7,” said one senior Israeli official, who declined to provide details. But a second senior Israeli official indicated that the United States has provided highly detailed satellite imagery that Israel lacks.

    Caliber.Az

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