IDF officers invoked defunct ‘Hannibal Protocol’ during Oct. 7 fighting – report

Haaretz alleges that senior officers in Gaza Division ordered soldiers to use whatever means necessary to prevent abductions, even if it posed risk to life

The remains of the home of Pessi Cohen, where Hamas held 14 Israelis hostage on October 7, 2023, in Kibbutz Be'eri, seen on November 19, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
The remains of the home of Pessi Cohen, where Hamas held 14 Israelis hostage on October 7, 2023, in Kibbutz Be'eri, seen on November 19, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

During the first hours of the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught in southern Israel, IDF troops on the ground were instructed to prevent the kidnapping of soldiers into Gaza by whatever means necessary, as senior officers in the Gaza Division allegedly implemented the controversial “Hannibal Protocol,” according to newly reported testimonies of soldiers and officers.

The Haaretz daily newspaper reported on Sunday that it had obtained documents and collected testimonies from troops who partook in the fighting on October 7. The data, Haaretz said, collectively pointed toward the use of the Hannibal Protocol, a military order officially repealed in 2016 that granted troops broad permission to do whatever necessary to prevent the kidnapping of a fellow soldier, including potentially endangering their life.

When the first Hamas terrorists breached the border fence between Israel and Gaza in the early hours of Saturday, October 7, the IDF was caught completely unaware and thus struggled to mount a response during the first few hours of the invasion.

At 7:18 a.m., less than an hour after the mass terror onslaught had begun, an IDF soldier monitoring surveillance cameras reported an attempted kidnapping of a soldier stationed at the Erez Crossing, which borders northern Gaza.

The response from command was an order for “Hannibal at Erez,” Haaretz alleged, and an instruction to dispatch an attack drone. Half an hour later, a second abduction was reported and the same order was said to have been issued.

Similar orders were also given to soldiers operating inside the Re’im Camp and Nahal Oz post, and according to testimonies, a Hermes 450 drone attacked the Re’im base once Shaldag commandos were already there fighting to regain control from the terrorists.

It was not confirmed whether any Israeli soldiers had been harmed as a result of the strike.

It was unclear from the report whether the supposed order was implemented at Nahal Oz, as seven surveillance soldiers were nevertheless kidnapped from the base, and 53 soldiers were killed.

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, 2023, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, November 26, 2023. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

In November 2023, a separate Haaretz report alleged that a small number of civilians may have been injured by fire from a military chopper as they were fleeing the Supernova music festival, held in the fields of Kibbutz Re’im. The report was denied by the police, however, and resulted in false claims from the Palestinian Authority that Israel had “allowed the occupation police and army to kill” all of the 364 partygoers mowed down by terrorists at the music festival.

According to Sunday’s report, the order to implement Hannibal-esque policies during the hours of fighting on October 7 was not limited to military bases but extended to civilians as well.

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., an order was issued in which soldiers were told that “not a single vehicle could return to Gaza” from inside Israel, for fear that it would be transporting kidnapped individuals.

An unnamed source from the IDF’s Southern Command confirmed to Haaretz that the order was issued because “everyone knew by then that such vehicles could be carrying kidnapped civilians or soldiers.”

The source added that while there were no instances in which a vehicle carrying kidnapped Israelis was knowingly attacked, “you couldn’t really know if there were any such people in a vehicle.”

“I can’t say there was any clear instruction, but everyone knew what it meant to not let any vehicles return to Gaza,” the source said.

In one case, an Israeli Air Force probe determined that Efrat Katz, 68, was likely killed by helicopter fire during an attempt by Hamas terrorists to take the Kibbutz Nir Oz resident hostage on October 7.

According to the investigation, amid battles that took place in southern Israel on October 7, an IAF helicopter opened fire on a car with several terrorists in it. It was later revealed, based on eyewitnesses, videos from the helicopter, and surveillance camera footage, that the vehicle also had Israeli hostages in it.

In total, some 1,200 people were massacred across southern Israel on October 7, and 251 were seized as hostages, the majority of them civilians.

Toward the evening, as the IDF fought to regain control of the Gaza border communities, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, the commander of the IDF’s 99th Division, ordered a tank to fire on a home in Kibbutz Be’eri, where Hamas terrorists were holding 14 Israelis hostage.

Palestinians stand next to a burning tank after breaching the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip. October 7, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)

The tank fired two shells toward the house. Of the 14 who had been held hostage, 13 were killed in the intense firefight between Israeli troops and the Hamas terrorists. It remains unclear how many of the 13 had been harmed by the tank fire, although at least one of them, 68-year-old Adi Dagan, was said to have been killed by shrapnel.

In the coming weeks, the IDF is due to present the findings of an investigation into the incident.

The Hannibal Protocol was canceled by then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot in 2016, who said that the military would instead design a series of new orders, better tailored to the various situations that soldiers may find themselves in.

While the decades-old protocol intended to allow troops to use potentially massive amounts of force to prevent soldiers from falling into enemy hands, some officers understood it to mean a soldier should deliberately be killed if it meant preventing their abduction.

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