IDF works on new abduction protocols

Soldiers will be expected to risk their own lives in order to thwart kidnappings under new procedures.

November 16, 2011 04:10
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers in desert exercise [file]

IDF soldiers in desert exercise 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The IDF is working to codify procedures that soldiers will be expected to take if they have the opportunity to thwart the abduction of a fellow soldier even at the risk of endangering his life, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The decision to lay down guidelines for how soldiers should act in such a case was made recently by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz following the prisoner swap Israel carried out last month with Hamas in exchange for Gilad Schalit.

IDF trains for soldier abduction scenario
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The IDF has been operating according to an unwritten and highly controversial protocol called “Hannibal,” which was developed in the 1980s, under which soldiers are required to take all action to thwart an abduction, even if the life of the abducted soldier would be in danger. In practice, commanders have given the protocol their own independent interpretation.

During Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, a commander of a battalion from the Golani Brigade told his soldiers that they should even consider blowing themselves up with a grenade if they are in danger of being kidnapped.

One senior commander told the Post that he has made it very clear to his subordinates that they need to do “everything” to prevent the abduction of a soldier.

“Officers tend to understand what ‘everything’ means and I am sure that company commanders, for example, would know what to do in such a case,” the senior officer said.

Under the new work being conducted within the IDF, officers are writing clearer guidelines for what soldiers are expected to do in the case of an abducted soldier.

One scenario is if a soldier is grabbed from a tank along the Gaza Strip – similar to the way Schalit was abducted – and is put into a car, once in Gaza. The first stage, one officer explained, would be for a nearby tank to try and target the car’s engine to prevent the terrorists from fleeing with the abducted soldier.

If that does not work, they would have to then consider firing at the center of the car, even at the risk of injuring their comrade.

The IDF is concerned that Hamas and other terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are currently plotting to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Fearing future abductions of soldiers, the IDF on Sunday held a large-scale exercise in the Jordan Valley to prepare a response for the potential kidnapping of a soldier.

Gantz oversaw the drill, which took place throughout the Jordan Valley with the purpose of reviewing the readiness of Division 162, which is stationed along the border.

The scenario included a soldier being abducted by Palestinian terrorists and moved between a number of vehicles as well as a number of villages in the Jordan Valley area. On the sidelines of the kidnapping, the scenario included a terrorist infiltration into an Israeli settlement in the area.

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