Ynet published an astonishing interview with several commanders of the Givati brigade, whose unit lost three soldiers during a Hamas ambush in which Hadar Goldin was captured (perhaps after he’d already died). The interview gives some of the clearest admissions yet that the IDF explicitly commands its officer to kill soldiers captured by the enemy rather than let them live and become future hostages.
The interview comes as the IDF prepares to commence a faux investigation into the massacre that followed the capture and announcement of a Hannibal Directive. This massacre led to the murder of 160 Palestinians and the utter destruction of large portions of Rafah. The ostensible goal was to kill both the Hamas cell which captured him and to exact revenge of the entire neighborhood into which the cell had retreated. It is widely believed that the IDF has launched such an investigation in order to forestall the UN Human Rights Council’s own inquiry which will review the same events, presumably from a far more critical perspective.
Israel needs to have a counter-narrative it can present to world media and the international community which will deflate, at least to a certain extent, what promise to be very strong condemnation from the UN panel. Far from being a legitimate or independent investigation, the IDF effort will be a dog-and-pony-show proclaiming its troops free and clear from any blame for Black Friday’s slaughter.
It’s important to note that the article explicitly says Ynet could not publish the names of the officers (who range in rank from Major to Lt. Colonel) out of fear they would be prosecuted for war crimes.
Here is some of the testimony from the eyewitnesses to the attack, how they reacted and why:
Battalion Commander Eli Gino:…”We officially declared Operation Hannibal about 20 minutes after the incident began. We asked for air attacks on those places where we suspected shafts [entrances to tunnels]. We knew it would decrease the chance we would find Hadar [Goldin] alive, but that was the best way to deal with it. In such a situation you must choose the least bad option.”
Major David describes the moments after the kidnapping [sic] became known as “an aggressive, crushing attack, because you understand that the faster you are the more likely you will achieve your objective–not conquering territory, but stopping the incident [the ambush and capture]. We acted as we’d been taught with with deliberation…Once you’re in the midst of such an incident you prefer a dead soldier to one captured by Hamas–a Shalit 2. You prefer a corpse to a kidnapped [sic] soldier.
We drilled [our troops] many times about the threat of kidnapping [sic] and the goal of disrupting it should it occur, by striking the enemy, even at the price of hitting your own fellow soldier. I said to myself: ‘Even if I bring back a corpse, the main thing is to bring back the missing soldier. In such a situation you do everything to avoid getting the nation involved in the Gilad Shalit mess. Everything I did, whether it was destroying buildings or striking on Palestinians was done with the firm belief in the rightness of the path and doing what was expected of us, just as the army taught us to do.”
Commander S. was no less decisive: “concerning this incident my conscience is even more clear. We have to admit, they succeeded in hitting us. In such a situation all means become acceptable including striking the innocent [ed., which might mean Goldin or Palestinian civilians or both]. Battalion Commander Gino completely supports those under his command: “We’re completely satisfied with the attack [on Rafah that followed] and proud of the immediate response of the unit… I’m at peace with the orders I gave. The fire was proportional. When they kidnap [sic] one of your soldiers all means are OK, even if involves a cost [again, this could refer both to Goldin’s killing and the subsequent Palestinian massacre]. A kidnapping is a very grave matter. There was no rampage in Rafah and we only attacked suspected targets…I have no fear being the focus of an investigation. We acted according to the values of the purity of arms, proven by the fact that not a single elderly Palestinian took a bullet.
In reading this, it became clear to me that these words were rehearsed. Clearly, the interviewees had been coached by both their commanders and military lawyers telling them what to say and how to present their narrative in the strongest light possible. The absolute certainty and conviction that they did not just right, but honored the nation and the military code in their actions strikes me as the ultimate bravado. Something a spin doctor would tell his client to say if he faced a political scandal or criminal charge. Don’t just say you were good, say you were the best damn soldier that ever was.
This is not just a scam, it’s an outrage. For an IDF commander to claim not even an aged Palestinian was killed when 160 such elderly men were killed by his bullets is unconscionable. But there is no consideration either of conscience or even of credibility within the army. Every word that originates there is false to its core.
The IDF committed an unpardonable war crime in Rafah. Deliberately killing its own soldier, as these men have admitted publicly for the first time, was the least of it.