IDF may get into hot water over possible use of ‘Hannibal Protocol’

The protocol, which the army never officially described, is thought to involve massive use of infantry, artillery and air fire if the enemy is trying to capture a soldier.

Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The IDF has essentially confirmed that it used the controversial “Hannibal Protocol” to try to thwart the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin, slain during the recent war, in a move that could provoke allegations of war crimes.
The Hannibal Protocol, which the army never officially described, is thought to involve massive use of infantry, artillery and air fire against a wide area in which the IDF believes the enemy is trying to make off with a captured soldier.
From the Israeli perspective, the case is mainly remembered for the fear over Goldin’s August 1 kidnapping by Hamas forces and questions of whether the IDF’s response to the kidnapping led to his death, while internationally, the IDF counterattack has led to war crimes allegations.
In a recent interview with Yediot Aharonot, commanders and soldiers involved in the operation to save or at least thwart the live capture of Goldin related to the incident, and seemingly explained why going after the captors in an aggressive manner that could lead to Goldin’s death was better than to have him captured alive.
But someone may not have done his homework.
The IDF personnel, the accuracy of whose quotes has been confirmed, did qualify their description of their counterattack against Goldin’s captors with phrases such as that the IDF units did not attack “innocents” and that their attacks were “proportional.”
But they twice said that “all [military] means were kosher” to thwart Goldin’s capture, and “even if I destroyed structures or harmed Palestinians, it was with faith in the justness of our cause... as we are educated in the IDF.”
From the IDF’s perspective, it would be best if “any means necessary” was solely meant to refer to even those actions that could lead to Goldin’s death, and that the “structures” and “Palestinians” mentioned meant only Hamas and its military posts.
Since the soldiers did not make this clear in the interview, the IDF is in a bind.
The extraordinary interview was oddly given while the IDF legal division reviews the incident for possible war crimes, a review that is being closely followed internationally.
If the soldiers misspoke, the military can try to subsequently interpret those statements to alleviate possible allegations.
If they did not misspeak, they may have confessed in public, some of them by name, to some elements of war crimes allegations or violations of the rules of engagement.
The IDF might then need to decide whether to indict them or not, which then raises the problem that the soldiers attributed their actions to unnamed superiors.
If the IDF would choose not to indict them, it might then give its critics, and possibly down the line even the International Criminal Court, a unique basis to prosecute these soldiers, since they spoke publicly, even if media interviews are far from official testimony.
One of the commanders who was interviewed said he was confident of his innocence, and would be ready to stand trial, a possibility that may now be more likely.