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Israeli spy chief quits as pressure over October 7 failures rises

Aharon Haliva is first Israeli official to take responsibility for failing to prevent Hamas attack or recent Iranian counterstrike.

Tel Aviv
Protesters continue calling on the government to secure the release of Israeli captives held in Gaza [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

The head of Israeli military intelligence has resigned for failing to prevent the October 7 Hamas attack.

The Israeli army announced the departure of Major-General Aharon Haliva on Monday. He is the first senior Israeli official to take responsibility for failing to prevent the assault, with the government seeking to keep the focus on its ongoing war in Gaza.

Haliva, who served in the military for 38 years, reportedly took responsibility for failing to prevent the attack in his resignation letter. More than 1,100 people were killed in the attack, while about 240 were taken captive.

“Major General Aharon Haliva, in coordination with the chief of the general staff, has requested to end his position, following his leadership responsibility as the head of the intelligence directorate for the events of October 7,” the military said in a statement.

With the approval of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, the military statement said, it was decided that Haliva “will end his position and retire” from the army “once his successor is appointed in an orderly and professional process”.

The Hamas offensive caught Israel and its security establishment off-guard.

In response, Israel launched a war on Gaza which has killed more than 34,000 people, according to Gaza health officials.

Haliva is the first of any official or politician to take responsibility for the security failures.

“The intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I carry that black day with me ever since, day after day, night after night. I will carry the horrible pain of the war with me forever,” Haliva wrote in his resignation letter.

However, the pressure has only grown as calls for Israel to agree to a deal to secure the release of the captives persist, and the tension across the region threatens to spark conflict with Iran.

‘Immense’ pressure

Speaking to Al Jazeera, political analyst Yossi Mekelberg said as the conflict drags on with no end in sight, Haliva’s move to quit seemed inevitable.

“Something is rotten in the kingdom of Israeli intelligence,” Mekelberg, associate fellow at the British think tank Chatham House, said.

“The pressure on Haliva was immense”, he said, adding, not just for the October 7 failures, but also for failing to gauge the Iranian response to the Israeli attack on its consular building in the Syrian capital, Damascus, which pushed the region to the brink of war.

“They left the country and the region on edge – it seems that no one warned [of] the possibility of more than 300 missiles, including ballistic, [being launched] against Israel,” Mekelberg added.

While Haliva and others have accepted blame for failing to stop the attack, others have stopped short, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he will answer tough questions about his role but has not outright acknowledged direct responsibility for allowing the attack to unfold.

Instead, he continues to present a bullish front, insisting on pushing forward with the military campaign in Gaza in an apparent bid to outlast the political pressure, which has grown both at home and internationally.

Omar Ashour, from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies suggested Haliva’s resignation letter was “a clear nudge or dig” at Israel’s leader to follow suit and quit.

“But knowing Netanyahu it’s highly unlikely to shift his position,” the analyst continued. “We’ll have to wait and see, there are always surprises in this war.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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