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'Better Dead Than Abducted' - Has The Hannibal Directive Cost Israeli Lives?


In a chilling revelation, the alleged use of the controversial Hannibal Directive during a Hamas attack resulted in the shocking and unlawful deaths of Israeli citizens, leaving the architect of the IDF's Code of Conduct to decry the actions as "unethical and horrifying"


The directive, drafted without legal consultation, was ‘classified’ until its official revocation in 2016. Professor Asa Kasher, who wrote the IDF's code of ethics, expressed grave concern over the wide range of interpretations and versions of the directive, saying it contains nothing permitting harm to Israeli citizens, whether in uniform or not.


The infamous ‘Hannibal Directive’ - 1986 – formally introduced by Israeli military. 2016 – revoked following public uproar. 2017 – replaced by a new, similar secret directive.


‘In any Israeli hostage or prisoner incident, excessive force must be used, regardless if it results in killing the hostages along with their captors, in order to avoid negotiations’ was the alleged wording.


According to one version, it says that "the kidnapping must be stopped by all means, even at the price of striking and harming our own forces."


The full text of the directive was never published, and until 2003, Israeli military censorship forbade any discussion of the subject in the press.


While Israel claims the choice of the name ‘Hannibal’ was randomly selected by computer, the facts don’t bear out the idea of coincidence - The historic Carthaginian general Hannibal is said to have preferred suicide by poison, rather than being taken prisoner by his Roman enemies…


In 2011, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz – now in government, pictured above holding a 'surprise training exercise' with IDF troops - claimed the directive does not permit killing IDF soldiers to prevent abduction.


But Hebrew language newspaper Maariv quoted a version it said was applicable in 2014:


A. During a kidnapping, the main task becomes to rescue our soldiers from the abductors, even at the cost of harming or injuring our soldiers.


B. If the abductors and the kidnapped are identified and the calls are not heeded, a firearm must be fired in order to bring the kidnappers to the ground, or arrest them.


D.(sic) If the vehicle or the hijackers do not stop, they should be fired at individually, intentionally, in order to hit the hijackers, even if it means harming our soldiers. (This section was accompanied by an asterisk comment emphasizing: "In any case, everything should be done to stop the vehicle and not allow it to escape").



This week Noam Dan, cousin of Israeli hostage Ofer Calderon, accused Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu of deliberately sacrificing captives as part of a strategy to prolong his political tenure.


She argued that this forms part of a wider ‘Hannibal Directive’, and simply said: “My government is annihilating them”

The Hannibal Directive, concealed in secrecy for years, has taken a disturbing turn. Originally designed to guide responses to soldier abductions, it gained notoriety for prioritizing rescues, even if it meant risking harm to the captive soldiers. However, recent reports suggest a horrifying misuse during a Hamas onslaught, leading to the tragic deaths of Israeli civilians.


Reports from Kibbutz Be'eri on October 7 have now revealed the Hannibal Directive's potential involvement in civilian casualties. A Hamas attack led to an incident at the Cohen family home, where 14 Israelis were held hostage. Survivor testimonies claim an Israeli tank fired on the house, resulting in the horrifying death of civilians, challenging the core principles of military ethics.


Kasher, urgently calling for a probe, condemns the potential use of the directive against civilians as utterly unacceptable. The families' demand for an immediate investigation into the tragic incident have been met with the IDF's decision to postpone any investigation of soldiers’ alleged shocking misconduct until 'after the war'.


Publication of other alleged additional incidents on October 7, involving IDF helicopters strafing cars attempting to cross the border, have further amplified the distressing reality of civilian casualties. Kasher stresses the urgency of investigating whether a misconceived understanding of the Hannibal Directive led to these controversial and morally reprehensible actions.


As the IDF faces heightened scrutiny over the alleged misuse of the Hannibal Directive, the brutal and tragic deaths of Israeli citizens underscore the urgent need for accountability. Professor Asa Kasher contends that a broader cultural shift within the army is imperative, emphasizing that seeking opportunities to sacrifice Israeli lives goes against ethical values and the paramount importance of preserving life above all else. The call for an immediate investigation echoes the demand for transparency and a reassessment of military ethics in the wake of this deeply disturbing revelation.

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