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US and Israeli Officials React to Blockbuster Report That Israel Knew Hamas Was Planning Attack

In the wake of blockbuster new reporting that Israel was aware Hamas was planning a major terror attack more than a year in advance, American officials are continuing to assess that information while Israel plans to conduct its own investigation after fighting ends with Hamas, officials said Sunday.

“All of these questions, we’re going to have to get to the bottom of it after the war,” Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer told ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Dermer maintained that he had been unaware of the intelligence about Hamas’ plans until it was published in The New York Times late last week.

The Times cited a 40-page document, which Israel reportedly obtained, predicting many of the steps taken by Hamas in the Oct. 7 terror attack that sparked the current war.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, in a separate “This Week” appearance on Sunday, was pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether the U.S. had any warning of the attack or should have.

“Our intelligence community is taking a look into that,” Kirby said. But he added, “They have no indications that we, the United States intelligence community, had any knowledge of that [Hamas planning] document beforehand or any visibility into it.”

Kirby also noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said there were intelligence failures.

“They’ll do the forensics. They’ll do that and they’ll do it thoroughly. But right now, certainly on intelligence, the focus has got to be on making sure that Israel has what it needs to go after Hamas leadership,” he said.

Israel has resumed its retaliatory military operations in Gaza after the collapse of a temporary cease-fire as part of a broader hostage-prisoner exchange with Hamas.

Kirby told Stephanopoulos that the U.S. was still pushing for another pause in the conflict in order to free more of the hostages.

“We’re working at this literally by the hour,” he said.

He blamed Hamas for the breakdown because they “refused to come up with additional lists of women and children, which we know they are holding.”

Kirby said about 140 people are believed to be still held captive by Hamas, including eight Americans, though he said officials have limited information on their location and condition.

While outside humanitarian groups, including the U.N., have warned of catastrophe for civilians in Gaza if sufficient aid isn’t allowed into the territory, Kirby said on “This Week” that “food, water, medicine and even fuel continues to get into Gaza” — though in smaller amounts than during the cease-fire.

Dermer, in his interview, expressed gratitude for the Biden administration’s work on a hostage deal but said Israel’s larger goal — “to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities, to end its political rule in Gaza” — had not changed.

Stephanopoulos pressed Dermer on the civilian death toll and pointed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent comments that such casualties could only fuel the very extremism that sparked October’s terror attack.

At least 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

American officials like Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have also recently called out the high death toll in Gaza.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep civilians out of harm’s way,” Dermer told Stephanopoulos. He highlighted steps like providing maps of locations where people in Gaza can go for safety and blasting out warnings to those in southern Gaza, many of whom fled earlier fighting.

“I want the American people to understand this: This war is not going on thousands of miles away. It’s going on literally hundreds of yards away, and it’s going on at a time when rockets are flying into our country and we have people running to bomb shelters,” Dermer said.

He argued that Israel’s attacks on Hamas in Gaza could force the group into another cease-fire.

“What we know is that the thing that brings Hamas to the table and its willingness to make a deal is military pressure,” he said.

Kirby, in his interview, said the U.S. has urged the Israeli government to account for civilians as they continue their military operations.

“We believe that they have been receptive to our messages here, in terms of trying to minimalize civilian casualties,” he said.

“They are making an effort,” he said.

While Dermer said he could not give a timeline for when the war ends — in weeks or months — he acknowledged “we still have some ways to go.”

More broadly, Kirby said that President Joe Biden still believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Kirby said the Palestinian Authority, which governs part of the West Bank territory, needed to be “revitalized” and reformed and Hamas could not have a stake in the process.

Dermer said Israel’s government also supports some form of Palestinian autonomy: “We want the Palestinians to have all the powers to govern themselves but none of the powers that they can use to threaten Israel.”

“That’s something when we get back to negotiations, we’ll have to see how we do that,” he said.

“But the first thing we have to do is destroy Hamas, which is not interested in any peace,” he said.

Source: ABC News