#HannibalDirective: #Israel confirms that it killed 130 #Palestinians in effort to ‘rescue’ (kill) one soldier

Haaretz reports: After Friday’s abduction of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces executed in full its “Hannibal procedure,” a protocol that calls for the massive use of force in an effort to rescue a captured soldier, even at risk to his life. As a result of the heavy fire in the Rafah area, dozens of innocent civilians were killed.

A senior General Staff officer said Sunday that “a great deal of fire was used in the area, and targets were attacked” in order to isolate it.

According to Palestinian reports, more than 130 Palestinians were killed in this onslaught, with some of the bodies located only in the days after it happened. Palestinians also accused the IDF of attacking vehicles en route to the Rafah hospital, including several ambulances.

IDF sources said that senior commanders in the field ordered the procedure implemented in full. The army knows that innocents were hurt as a result of the massive use of force after the soldier’s capture.

An IDF inquiry concluded that about 75 minutes after a cease-fire was to have taken effect on Friday morning, a Givati Brigade patrol came under heavy fire while moving toward a building where a tunnel shaft was located. Company commander Maj. Benaya Sarel and his communications officer, Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni, were killed. The IDF now believes Goldin, a squad commander, was also killed in the incident.

Contrary to earlier reports, however, the inquiry concluded that the terrorist who came nearest the three soldiers wasn’t wearing a suicide belt, but simply continued firing his rifle until he was killed.

When other soldiers from the company arrived at the scene a few minutes later, they found three bodies, those of Sarel, Gidoni and a Hamas operative wearing an IDF uniform. They then realized that Goldin was missing. The company’s deputy commander, 1st Lt. Eitan, decided to take some of his men into the tunnel to search for Goldin, in violation of protocol.

A few hundred meters into the tunnel, the troops found some of Goldin’s personal effects, which later helped the IDF to establish that he had been killed. The tunnel itself had several branches, some of them blocked. One led into a mosque, which the soldiers searched, but it was empty. Another led to a Hamas outpost.

The IDF then sent additional forces to the area, including aircraft and observation equipment. According to an IDF source, virtually all the firepower in the south-central region of the Gaza Strip were sent to the Rafah sector, where the incident took place, on orders from Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter. This included a tank battalion and an infantry battalion, which helped search for additional tunnel shafts. These forces also laid down heavy fire “from all directions,” including tank shells, artillery bombardments and air strikes, in an effort to isolate the area where Goldin was thought to be, block all access routes to and from it and thereby ensure that nobody could either enter or leave without the soldiers noticing, the IDF source said. This was in line with the Hannibal procedure, which one senior officer said is meant to ensure that “every effort to locate the kidnapped [soldier] and the kidnappers” is made.

Anshel Pfeffer attempts to explain why Israel is willing to kill its own soldiers while attempting to “rescue” them:

Recent reports in the international media suggest that the directive is tantamount to ordering the captured soldier to be shot in order to prevent him being taken prisoner; rather, it is the suspension of safety procedures which normally prohibit firing in the general direction of an IDF soldier, specifically firing to stop an escaping vehicle.

The original order mentioned using light-arm fire, particularly selective sniper fire, to hit the captors or stop their vehicle – “even if that means hitting our soldiers. In any case, everything will be done to stop the vehicle and prevent it from escaping.”

That kind of makes sense — no effort spared in attempting to prevent a soldier being spirited away. But that’s not what just happened:

On Friday morning, when the IDF still believed that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin may have been taken alive by Hamas into an attack tunnel beneath Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hannibal Directive was activated to its most devastating extent yet – including massive artillery bombardments and air strikes on possible escape routes.

Massive bombardment to “save” a soldier falls into the same category of Orwellian doublespeak as the infamous need to destroy villages in order to save them (in Vietnam).

Nevertheless, Pfeffer goes on to say:

Perhaps the most deeply engrained reason that Israelis innately understand the needs for the Hannibal Directive is the military ethos of never leaving wounded men on the battlefield, which became the spirit following the War of Independence, when hideously mutilated bodies of Israeli soldiers were recovered.

So what happened on Friday? Goldin’s body was most likely hideously mutilated by an American-manufactured, Israeli-fired artillery shell and spared the risk of becoming hideously mutilated in some other way.

I’d like to hear Gilad Shalit‘s opinion on how well this rationale holds up.

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  1. I would be interested to learn how the rank and file feel about this. I doubt that all of them accept that every mission has become a suicide mission, when the politicians deem it so.

    One remembers the fragging of certain officers in Viet Nam. I remember the day when our battery sargent-major reacted to an unpopular order when on exercise, by commenting cryptically that officers are more careful with their orders when everyone is issued live ammunition. He was a veteran of the North African campaign in WWII.

  2. Paul Woodward says

    Everything I’ve read includes mention of dissent. As much as many Israelis are willing to die for their country, there doesn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm about being shot or bombed for and by their country. Wikipedia:

    The order has been highly controversial inside IDF. The Haaretz article mentions several instances where IDF soldiers or officers have refused or told to refuse to comply with the directive on legal or moral grounds.

    Dr. Avner Shiftan, an army physician with the rank of major, came across the Hannibal directive while on reserve duty in South Lebanon in 1999. In army briefings he “became aware of a procedure ordering soldiers to kill any IDF soldier if he should be taken captive by Hizbullah. This procedure struck me as being illegal and not consistent with the moral code of the IDF. I understood that it was not a local procedure but originated in the General Staff, and had the feeling that a direct approach to the army authorities would be of no avail, but would end in a cover-up.” He contacted Asa Kasher, the Israeli philosopher noted for his authorship of Israel Defense Forces’ Code of Conduct, who “found it difficult to believe that such an order exists,” since this “is wrong ethically, legally and morally”. He doubted that “there is anyone in the army” believing that ‘better a dead soldier than an abducted soldier’.