New testimonies emerge from soldiers who believe that the capture of a soldier is too strategically risky to be allowed, at any price. The real risk that the botched rescue operation was trying to avert, however, could well be more political than strategic.
There has been some controversy during the war about the meaning of the Hannibal Directive, a once-classified order meant to prevent the capture of Israeli soldiers by enemy forces – notoriously, by allowing Israeli troops to fire in their direction, even at risk of injury or death to the captive. Some have taken the interpretation of the order to the extreme, arguing that it effectively means captive soldiers were to be killed by their own army rather than allowed to be taken as bargaining chips for a future prisoner exchange. Others defended it, stating that it merely allows rescue forces greater flexibility, rather than having them paralyzed by the hostage-takers – even if this flexibility came at the cost of some risk to the hostage.
The directive, originally issued in 1986 and made public in 2003, came to the surface during the latest war because of two incidents in which soldiers (St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, on July 20th, and Lt. Hadar Goldin, on August 1) were initially reported as captive but were quickly declared to be missing and presumed dead. In Shaul’s case, it was fairly obvious within hours of the attack on the antiquated APC in which he was traveling that the soldier was dead and that Hamas had, at best, a dead body. But when it came to Goldin, conflicting messages from the political and military leaderships of Hamas, and the apparently genuine uncertainty within the IDF resulted in an excruciating two days during which the soldier was presumed alive but in captivity. Two days in which his family and his fiancée held on to hope against all odds, only to be heartbroken all over again 30 hours later.
What is alarming and what certainly contributed to that uncertainty was the IDF’s conduct in the immediate aftermath of the capture. Shooting generally at the hostage-takers would’ve been controversial enough. But according to reports from the ground, the IDF unleashed much of its immediately available firepower onto the area where it had guessed the captors and the captive could still be located. According to Israeli news site Walla!’s summary of the day’s activity, the...Read More