HANNIBAL DIRECTIVE (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – IR)

News-CRUX-10     11th July 2024        

Context: A media investigation has revealed that during Hamas' raid on southern Israel last year, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) activated the controversial "Hannibal Directive," employing maximum force to prevent soldier capture, even at the cost of military and civilian lives.

Hannibal Directive

  • About: It is also known as the Hannibal Procedure and Hannibal Protocol, was employed from the initial hours of the attack at least three military facilities infiltrated by Hamas.
  • Definition: It is an alleged IDF operational policy intended to prevent politically sensitive prisoner exchanges by eliminating all individuals near a captured Israeli soldier, even if it endangers the soldier.
  • Secrecy of the Doctrine: The full text of the Hannibal Directive has never been publicly released, though its existence is widely acknowledged and discussed among soldiers and analysts.
  • Procedure: The directive focuses on actions to be taken immediately following a potential abduction, stating: “In case of capture, the main mission becomes rescuing our soldiers from the captors, even at the cost of hitting or wounding our soldiers.”
  • Origin of the Name: The directive's name was reportedly chosen at random. However, it is believed to reference the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who opted to take his own life rather than be captured by the Romans around 181 BCE.
  • Historical Context: Hannibal, leading Carthage in the Second Punic War against Rome, took refuge with Prusias I of Bithynia. 

oWhen Romans demanded his surrender, Hannibal chose to consume poison to avoid capture, as recorded by Cornelius Nepos and Titus Livius.

  • Formulation of the Doctrine: The Hannibal Doctrine was developed in response to the 1985 Jibril Agreement, where 1,150 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for three Israelis captured by the PFLP-GC. This deal, seen as costly by many Israelis, spurred the creation of the doctrine to prevent similar situations.
  • Drafting the Doctrine: Following a 1986 Hezbollah abduction attempt, Yossi Peled, then head of the IDF’s Northern Command, drafted the operational order that laid the foundation for the Hannibal Doctrine.
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