Israel revokes policy on preventing capture of soldiers at all costs

AFP — June 29, 2016

The IDF is thought to have used the Hannibal proceedure in Rafah during the Gaza war. Click to enlarge

The IDF is thought to have used the Hannibal proceedure in Rafah during the Gaza war. Click to enlarge

Israel’s army chief has revoked a decades-old directive that allowed troops to use massive firepower to prevent soldiers being captured alive, the army said Tuesday.

The so-called Hannibal Directive allowed soldiers to fire at enemy forces attempting to abduct their colleagues, even if that risked killing the Israeli soldier.

“The chief of staff has ordered to cancel the procedure,” an army spokeswoman told AFP Tuesday.

Amnesty International last year accused Israel of activating the directive, with “strong evidence” of war crimes, after the capture of a soldier in Rafah during its 2014 war in the Gaza Strip — charges Israel denies.

Amnesty said heavy Israeli bombing in “retaliation” for the capture of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin had killed at least 135 Palestinian civilians, including 75 children. Goldin was later declared dead.

The case of Gilad Shalit, who was captured in Gaza by militant group Hamas in 2006 and released in 2011 in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, triggered intense public debate about the policy.

Asa Kasher, an Israeli expert on military ethics, welcomed the “long due” decision to re-write the directive, formulated during Israel’s 1980s war with Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

He said soldiers and commanders had for decades misunderstood the directive as ordering the execution of a soldier to prevent his abduction.

Hannibal instructs soldiers to prevent a comrade falling into enemy hands, “even at a certain risk to the soldier’s life,” said Kasher, who headed the committee that formulates the Israeli army’s code of ethics.

But they cannot use arms in such a way that would certainly kill the soldier, or even most probably kill him, he said.

“The value of a soldier’s life is greater than that of preventing an abduction.”

Kasher said he was not aware of a case in which Israeli soldiers killed others to prevent their abduction.

Newspaper Haaretz reported in 2011 that Israeli commanders were telling combat units to “do their utmost” to avoid “becoming another Gilad Shalit” — although it said the policy had been out of use for a decade.

The army on Tuesday refused to provide more details on the change in policy.


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