Soldiers (illustration)
Soldiers (illustration)IDF Spokesperson's Unit

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira has expressed opposition to the 'Hannibal Directive', a policy dictating IDF soldiers should take all necessary measures to stop a kidnapping of a soldier in progress or immediately afterwards, even if it means endangering the lives of the kidnapped soldiers themselves. This according to a report in Haaretz Tuesday.

According to Haaretz, the first draft of the Comptroller's report dealing with lessons to be learned from operation Protective Edge contains a recommendation to abolish the directive, which, in the Comptroller's view, is not clear to or understood by the IDF chain of command.

In this draft, distributed over the past few days to the relevant levels of the IDF command hierarchy, the directive is interpreted by many as a green light to kill kidnapped soldiers during pursuit, while the directive only really permits the use of force to rescue kidnapped soldiers even if this endangers their lives.  

The Comptroller writes in the draft that this directive is more suited to kidnappings in circumstances of regular security operations, and not to states of war where there is more room to take into account International Law considerations, such as the principle of differentiation between combatants and civilians, and the principle of proportionality which dictates that the scope of a military operation needs to be kept in proportion to its objectives. These principles militate against the use of excessive force during a state of war.

Also recommended in the drafted report is raising the clearance requirement for authorizing broad use of force in an attempt to stop a kidnapping. The authority to order this is currently held at the level of Brigade Commander. The Comptroller recommends that deliberations regarding such an order take into account the severity of the event, the environment in which it occurs, and the potential for subsequent escalation. The decisions should be made at the highest level, by the Chief of Staff with the help of the Military Advocate General. He would also need to make sure that the ethical issues inherent in the operation are clear to all participating units.  

An IDF spokesperson said that "the draft of the report was received by the IDF yesterday, and will be studied in the coming days. The IDF will deal with the draft directly, and not through the press.

The paper adds that a senior military official has recently said that Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot had already decided to abolish the Hannibal Directive several weeks ago and a new standing order is currently being drafted in the Operations Directorate.