Avoid cap­ture at all costs, IDF were told

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

IS­RAELI SOL­DIERS op­er­at­ing in Gaza had un­of­fi­cial or­ders to foil Ha­mas at­tempts to cap­ture their com­rades, even if it cost a cap­tured sol­dier’s life.

Through­out the fight­ing in the Gaza Strip, ground units par­tic­i­pat­ing in Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead en­coun­tered dozens of booby-trapped houses that had hid­den rooms and tun­nels specif­i­cally de­signed to spirit away wounded IDF sol­diers. In ad­di­tion, de­spite pulling back most of its forces from the ar­eas where IDF units op­er­ated, Ha­mas sent snatch-squads into the com­bat zones in an at­tempt to achieve what, for them, would have been a ma­jor coup in the eyes of the Pales­tinian pub­lic as well as an in­valu­able bar­gain­ing chip.

“One of our main pri­or­i­ties was lo­cat­ing th­ese booby-traps and ex­plo­sive de­vices and neu­tral­is­ing them,” said a se­nior com­man­der in the Com­bat En­gi­neer­ing Corps. All units op­er­at­ing around Gaza were ac­com­pa­nied by spe­cial­ist bomb-dis­posal teams.

In re­ports that have come out since the war, it has be­come clear that some com­man­ders in­structed their troops to pre­vent the cap­ture of their com­rades, even if it meant en­dan­ger­ing their lives. The com­man­der of Golani Bri­gade’s Bat­tal­ion 51, Lieu­tenant Colonel ‘D’ told his sol­diers that “[Ha­mas’s] ul­ti­mate strate­gic weapon” is a kid­napped sol­dier. “I don’t have to tell you that not one sol­dier in Bat­tal­ion 51 is go­ing to be kid­napped, at no cost. Even if that means that he ex­plodes a gre­nade to­gether with those who try and take him.”

In an­other case, an IDF tank was or­dered to fire shells into a build­ing in which a wounded IDF sol­dier lay be­cause of re­ports that a Ha­mas snatch­squad was also present. The or­der was given de­spite the fact that the sol­dier might still have been alive at the time.

IDF pro­ce­dure in case of a sol­dier’s cap­ture is called the Han­ni­bal Di­rec­tive and in­cludes or­ders to fire on an en­emy group that has ab­ducted an IDF sol­dier, even if it could en­dan­ger the sol­dier’s life. This is rarely men­tioned by of­fi­cial sources and dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead, the IDF did not ac­knowl­edge that the or­der had been given in any spe­cific case. When De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak was asked about the Bat­tal­ion Com­man­der’s or­der — a record­ing of which was broad­casted on Chan­nel Ten — he said he was not fa­mil­iar with the case.

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