Israeli army cancels controversial Hannibal Protocol
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Israeli army cancels controversial Hannibal Protocol

IDF chief puts an end to ‘last resort’ measure that allowed troops to use massive force to prevent soldiers from being captured

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Smoke billowing following an IDF strike east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. (AFP/SAID KHATIB/file)
Smoke billowing following an IDF strike east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. (AFP/SAID KHATIB/file)

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has decided to cancel the Hannibal Protocol, a controversial military order that grants troops broad permission to do whatever is necessary to prevent the kidnapping of a fellow soldier, the army’s spokesperson said Tuesday.

A new directive is now being to devised to replace the controversial protocol. The new directive will be designed to better match the types of situations that soldiers are likely to encounter, the spokesperson said.

This move was not necessarily a full change in policy but a clarification over what exactly the Hannibal Protocol entails; according to a soon-to-be released State Comptroller report, military officers have differing understandings of the directive, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot tours the Golan Heights on June 26, 2016 (IDF spokesperson's office)
IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot tours the Golan Heights on June 26, 2016 (IDF spokesperson’s office)

Yossi Peled, one of the protocol’s creators, told Army Radio on Tuesday he backed Eisenkot’s decision.

“If the chief of staff reached the decision that in the way the order as it is understood today it needs to be canceled, I am with him,” Peled said.

The protocol has existed in the Israel Defense Forces for decades, as a response to the often incredibly lopsided prisoner exchanges between Israel and terrorist groups who kidnap IDF soldiers. It again rose to prominence 10 years ago following the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

The directive allows soldiers to use potentially massive amounts of force to prevent a soldier from falling into the hands of the enemy. This includes the possibility of endangering the life of the soldier in question in order to prevent his capture.

Some officers, however, understand the order to mean that soldiers ought to deliberately kill their comrade in order to stop him from being taken prisoner, not that they may accidentally injure or kill him in their attempt.

The Hannibal Protocol was most recently used in March, after two soldiers accidentally wound up in the Qalandiya refugee camp and were forced to abandon their vehicle. Commanders in the field put the directive into effect for approximately half an hour before the two soldiers were found and brought to safety.

During the firefight, a Palestinian man, 22-year-old Iyad Amr Sajdiyeh, was killed, while dozens more were injured and 10 members of Israel’s security forces were wounded.

Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, killed in Gaza on August 1 (photo credit: AP Photo/ Ynet News)
Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, killed in Gaza on August 1 (photo credit: AP Photo/ Ynet News)

However, more famously the directive was employed on August 1, 2014, during the most recent Gaza war, when Lt. Hadar Goldin was believed to have been taken hostage in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF determined that Goldin was killed in action, though his remains are believed to still be held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

When the protocol was declared in Gaza, a column of tanks reportedly charged into inhabited neighborhoods. Bulldozers tore down houses. Artillery batteries, tanks and aircraft opened fire, isolating the abduction zone and reportedly targeting all vehicles leaving the area.

According to Palestinian reports, the death toll reached 150, though the IDF estimated the number to be closer to 40.

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