New IDF orders to thwart soldier abductions replace misunderstood protocol

Three new military procedures, allowing massive use of force, came into effect this month to replace controversial Hannibal directive

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative. IDF soldiers rush towards a target during the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, on August 4, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Illustrative. IDF soldiers rush towards a target during the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, on August 4, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The Israel Defense Forces has replaced its controversial Hannibal Protocol, a military order that grants troops broad permission to do whatever is necessary to prevent the abduction of a fellow soldier, with three new directives, beginning on January 1.

A copy of the new orders provided to The Times of Israel clarifies what actions are permitted to prevent an abduction.

Since the start of 2017, the army has been reviewing the new orders with its soldiers.

The Hannibal Protocol, which could be used in any setting, has been replaced by three distinct orders, depending upon the circumstances of the abduction: in the West Bank during peacetime, elsewhere beyond Israel’s borders during peacetime, or in any location during a war or other emergency situation.

No new order exists that deals with a soldier being abducted within Israel during peacetime.

The directive for a West Bank abduction is known as “True Test”; the directive for a abduction elsewhere outside Israel is called “Tourniquet”; and the directive for abductions during wartime is, in Hebrew, “Shomer Nafsho,” which connotes caution and the saving of lives.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit would not confirm the existence of the new directives, saying it “cannot elaborate on operational plans.” But news of the protocol change was first reported by Army Radio on Monday morning.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, July 13, 2016 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, July 13, 2016 (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In June, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot decided to cancel the Hannibal Protocol, as it was apparently being misunderstood by some troops and because the approximately 20-year-old protocol was no longer relevant to the types of incidents that soldiers were liable to encounter.

The Hannibal Protocol, like the new orders, allowed soldiers to use potentially massive amounts of force to prevent a soldier from falling into the hands of the enemy. This included the possibility of endangering the life of the soldier in question in order to prevent his capture.

Some officers, however, understood 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 employ force that could accidentally injure or kill him in their attempt.

The new protocol specifically says that soldiers should fire at the abductors “while avoiding hitting the captive,” in order to ensure no misunderstanding.

It similarly reminds soldiers that it is their responsibility to avoid capture and prevent the abduction of others while “guarding the life of the captive.”

The Hannibal Protocol was last used, briefly, in March 2016, after two soldiers accidentally entered 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.

The directive was more dramatically 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 subsequently determined that Goldin was killed in action, and his remains are believed to still be held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed in Gaza on August 1, 2014. (AP Photo/ Ynet News)
Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed in Gaza on August 1, 2014. (AP Photo/ Ynet News)

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 approximately 120, though the IDF estimated the number to be closer to 40.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.