‘Last resort’ measure used to ensure troops weren’t kidnapped in Qalandiya, army says
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‘Last resort’ measure used to ensure troops weren’t kidnapped in Qalandiya, army says

Controversial Hannibal Protocol was put into effect for half hour after soldiers accidentally drove into refugee camp late Monday, sparking clashes

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

The IDF employed the controversial Hannibal Protocol, which grants troops near complete freedom of operation in order to prevent the capture of fellow soldiers, during a rescue mission in the Qalandiya refugee camp on Monday night, the army said.

The directive was ordered after two IDF soldiers were forced to abandon their vehicle after being attacked when they accidentally entered the camp, necessitating a rescue mission.

The rare protocol, considered a measure of last resort, is generally ordered to prevent the possible kidnap of Israeli troops and is considered a major operational undertaking, involving the possible use of massive firepower, even at the risk of endangering the kidnapped soldier’s life.

The IDF said it employed the measure after realizing that one soldier was unaccounted for, in order to “keep everyone on the same page,” an IDF spokesperson said.

“After locating one of the soldiers and (amid) the realization that another was missing, possibly abducted, the procedure was declared in the field in order to raise situation awareness and allocate the necessary military resources to locate the soldier,” the army said.

The directive was in effect for approximately half an hour, until the second soldier reached the nearby Kochav Ya’akov settlement and made contact with the army.

“The emergency was called off 30 minutes later once the second soldier was found,” the IDF said.

Use of the measure was first reported by the Haaretz daily.

The incident began when two noncombat soldiers got lost and drove an army vehicle into Qalandiya just before 11 p.m. and came under a barrage of Molotov cocktails and stones.

The soldiers fled their vehicle after it was attacked and set alight, but got separated from one another.

One of the soldiers was found by forces within approximately half an hour, the army said. The soldier was tracked through his cellphone, IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz told Army Radio Tuesday morning.

Clashes with local residents lasted until the early hours of the morning, as IDF troops attempted to remove the burned army jeep from the refugee camp. During the firefight, one Palestinian man was killed, dozens more were injured and 10 members of Israel’s security forces were wounded.

One Palestinian man killed in the skirmish was identified as 22-year-old Iyad Amr Sajdiyeh, an al-Quds University student from Qalandiya. The Palestinian Red Crescent said Sajdiyeh was shot in the head.

Among Israeli forces, which included both border guards and IDF soldiers, one sustained moderate injuries and the rest were listed in fair condition after being taken to a Jerusalem hospital, according to the IDF.

The Hannibal Protocol was crafted in 1986 by three Israeli officers: Maj. Gen. Yossi Peled, the former head of the Northern Command, then-Col. Gabi Ashkenazi, who would go on to become the IDF chief of staff, and then-Col. Yaakov Amidror, a top intelligence officer and former national security adviser.

The directive was conceived one year after the lopsided Jibril Agreement, in which Israel traded 1,150 security prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers, and several months after the ensuing abduction of the soldiers Yosef Fink and Rafael Alsheikh. The idea was to establish a set procedure, known to all soldiers, to limit the success of any abduction operation.

“What we needed was clarity,” Amidror told The Times of Israel in 2014, during Operation Protective Edge.

What arose was a protocol that ordered soldiers to thwart the abduction of a fellow soldier “even at the price of harming or wounding our soldiers,” but without directly attempting to kill them.

File: Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, killed in Gaza on August 1 (AP Photo/ Ynet News)
Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, killed in Gaza on August 1, 2014 (AP Photo/ Ynet News)

The directive was used on August 1, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge when Lt. Hadar Goldin was believed to have been taken hostage in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

That incident brought the controversial directive back into the foreground, with human rights advocates arguing that the directive violated international law since if it were applied in an urban area, it would threaten the lives of too many civilians.

When the Hannibal Protocol was declared, a column of tanks reportedly charged into inhabited Gaza 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.

Goldin, the army determined late the following night, had been killed in the initial attack. His body is still being held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.

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