An Israeli tank drives as it returns to Israel from the Gaza Strip August 3, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF legal division will ignore outside pressures in deciding whether to criminally investigate the Hannibal Protocol “Black Friday” incident, in which terrorists tried to kidnap Lt. Hadar Goldin during the summer Gaza war, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Monday.
Coming days after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon came out publicly against the IDF criminally investigating the August 1 incident, in which more Palestinian civilians may have been killed than in any other incident during Operation Protective Edge, Weinstein’s declaration appeared to be a back-handed rebuke both to Ya’alon and to NGOs, that have pressed in the opposite direction.
The Hannibal Protocol, which the army has never made official, is thought to involve massive use of infantry, artillery, and air power against a wide area where the IDF believes the enemy is trying to make off with a captured soldier.
In a letter responding to demands by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for Weinstein to intervene and presumably push for a criminal investigation, his top aide, Oren Fono, wrote that “the Military Advocate- General [of the IDF] will act independently, outside of the chain of command, taking into account law enforcement considerations only.”
The letter also said that the Hannibal Protocol does not allow the intentional killing of an IDF soldier to prevent his capture (it did not deny the possibility of aggressive fire increasing the likelihood of his death) and does not allow attacks that would violate the principles of military necessity or proportionality.
It was a dramatic letter in that it is the first time the attorney- general has officially admitted the protocol exists, that his office has had meetings with the IDF over the protocol, and his declaration that he could reveal no more information without violating national security.
The letter did not mention Ya’alon explicitly, but the additional paragraph about the Military Advocate-General’s independence appeared to be a response to him, while the part about the laws of war seemed to respond to ACRI.
It is alleged that, in terms of Palestinian civilians in the incident, IDF fire killed anywhere from about 30 to as many as 150.
The lower figure would be on reports of around 70 total dead and IDF estimates that around 50 percent of Palestinian dead in the Gaza war were civilians, though there are also several unofficial reports that the army put the number of dead civilians at 40. The IDF has not given an official number pending its preliminary investigation and decision on whether to fully criminally investigate.
Around 100 would be 80% of the UN’s 130 figure and 150 would be 80% of some NGOs’ 190 figure, with 80% being the highest estimated percentage of civilians estimated by some NGOs as killed in Gaza.
Neither Israel, the UN, nor the NGOs has given an official number of civilians killed.