‘Hannibal’: Is Israel Killing Its Own Captives in Gaza? – ANALYSIS

(Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud & Romana Rubeo

The question imposes itself once more: Is Israel killing its own hostages as part of the Hannibal Directive?

In a statement on Saturday, Abu Obeida, the military spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas, accused Israel of “deliberately execut(ing)” three of its captives in Gaza, “in a desperate attempt to rid (itself) of the burdens and obligations of this issue.”

Abu Obeida’s claim could easily be understood as an accusation that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu simply does not prioritize the release of the hostages, as the Israeli leader is fixated on prolonging the war for the sake of his own political survival.

But there is more to the story. 

‘Time is Running Out’

In a press conference in Beirut, top Hamas official Osama Hamdan showed a video of the number of Israeli soldiers killed by their own military in Gaza since the beginning of the war. 

Each image is followed by a number, the last of which were the three military prisoners who attempted to escape only to be killed by their own army in the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City on Friday morning, according to the Israeli military spokesman. 

The Al-Qassam video, displayed by Hamdan, seems to have been prepared just before yet another hostage was announced dead by the Israeli army. 

The video finished with a Hebrew phrase that translates to “Time is running out”. 

But Hamdan’s counter was not the only reference to a timer, and to ‘time is running out’. 

The families of Israeli military captives in Gaza also have their own timer, in a large square in Tel Aviv, where they have protested their government’s failure to negotiate the release of their family members. 

The largest protests are usually held on Saturday, and they have been gathering momentum over time; yet the Israeli government insists on pursuing the military option.

The military option, however, seems to be killing prisoners, as opposed to saving them. 

Killing Baruch and Others

As early as the first days of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Palestinian Resistance announced repeatedly that the Israeli civilian hostages and military captives have been killed along with thousands of Palestinian civilians. 

Their death was then understood to be a direct outcome of the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which, to this date, killed over 18,800 Palestinians.

But since the start of the ground incursion by the Israeli military on October 27, that logic ceased to suffice. 

On December 8, Israeli commanders attempted to carry out a rescue operation that, if it had succeeded, would have served as a boost of Israel’s collective confidence after the October 7 military operation carried out by the Resistance. Except, it didn’t.

It seems that the Israeli attackers, who attempted to save some of the hostages, have managed to escape successfully, taking their dead and wounded with them. 

However, based on documented video evidence by Al-Qassam Brigades, they also left behind a dead Israeli military captive, Sa’ar Baruch. 

Baruch’s body was riddled with bullets, with bullet holes going through his chest and even left eye, raising speculation on the method in which he was killed by his own Israeli rescuers. 

Though Palestinian and Arab media discussed this fact at length, Israeli media analysts largely avoided it.

But the questions persisted, coming back in full force on Friday, when the Israeli military admitted to the execution (they said ‘mistakenly’ killing) of three of its own soldiers who were attempting to escape from Shejayia. 

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the prisoners were waving white flags when they were murdered.

“A soldier who was stationed on one of the upper floors of a building in the area has identified three figures who held a long stick that had a white fabric attached to it. The report states that, for some reason, the soldier felt threatened and opened fire at the group,” Haaretz reported.

Killed on Purpose? 

One could comprehend the collective panic felt by Israeli soldiers in Shejaiya, one of the toughest Palestinian Resistance spots, where fierce battles have already killed dozens of Israeli soldiers.  

But what is difficult to understand is the fact that the soldiers, who attempted to escape, had already anticipated the reaction of their own colleagues, that of randomly killing Palestinian civilians. So, they took their clothes off in advance, raised white flags and shouted in Hebrew. 

The latter are not claims made by the Palestinian Resistance but admitted by the Israelis themselves. 

But why were these three captives shot and killed at point-blank, while giving every indication that they were not Palestinians?

Initially, the Israeli military alleged that the dead captives were dressed up in ‘Arab clothes’, whatever that may be. Later on, Israeli media, citing Israeli military sources, admitted that the soldiers had taken some of their clothes off.

So, were they killed on purpose? And if yes, why? 

Hannibal Directive

‘Hannibal Directive’ is the name of a controversial procedure used by the Israeli army to prevent, at any cost the capture of soldiers by enemy forces. 

The directive, according to Eyal Weizmann, the founder of Forensic Architecture, dictates that “the kidnapping must be stopped by all means, even at the price of striking and harming our own forces”.

According to testimonies by Israeli settlers in the Israel-Gaza border region, the Israeli military had killed many of its own citizens as if to prevent the Resistance from taking them as hostages.

These reports even made their way to the Israeli media. 

Yasmin Porat, a survivor from the Kibbutz Be’eri, near the fence separating Gaza from Israel, said in an interview with Israeli Radio that Israeli forces “undoubtedly” killed a large number of Israeli civilians following the Hamas operation on October 7.

“They eliminated everyone, including the hostages,” she told Israeli radio. “There was very, very heavy crossfire and even tank shelling.”

Considering that, per Hamdan’s counter, at least nine Israeli hostages and captives have been killed by the Israeli military – in addition to the latest female soldier – and the failure of Israel to rescue a single hostage – the initial question imposes itself once more: Is Israel killing its own hostages as part of the Hannibal Directive?

One may argue that the entire war on Gaza, however costly for Palestinian civilians, also constitutes a suicide mission for the Israeli army, as they have been killed and wounded in large and unprecedented numbers. 

Either way, Abu Obeida’s statement that the Israeli army “deliberately executed” the captives was not born out of a vacuum. 

And while time is running out for those captives who are being killed by their own military, it does not seem that Netanyahu is concerned about the ticking timer of Hamas’ videos or that displayed in one of Tel Aviv’s largest squares. Because that, too, keeps on ticking.

– Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

– Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out


  1. I’ve had a little bit of education in philosophy including logic, though I never delved into the symbolic logic. This was compounded later by an interest in computer science and cybernetics. I see two vulnerabilities in this “Hannibal Directive” – one, a character in the Hebrew Bible, Uriah the Hittite by name, husband of the woman King David wanted, sent into the heaviest fighting only to have the rest withdraw, leaving him exposed. The Hannibal Directive is a danger to democracy. Two, all it takes is for an enemy force to trap IDF soldiers a la Stalingrad, and the IDF will eliminate them itself. I suspect Hizbullah is itching to try this out on the IDF.

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