You might not have heard of the ‘Hannibal Protocol’, but it's behind one of Israel's worst atrocities yet

What's more, the Israeli colonel behind it all seems to think it was divine


While Israel and Hamas are still looking for ways to end their Gaza war, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a three-member panel to investigate allegations that humanitarian law was violated in the Gaza Strip during the fighting, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.

Close to 2,000 Palestinians have so far been killed in Gaza, a majority of them civilians, while the Israelis have lost 64 soldiers and three civilians. On past precedent, Israel is highly unlikely to co-operate with any UN investigation.

That was Israel’s position with the Goldstone inquiry into Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed. What the Israelis will do is to conduct their own investigations, insisting that as Israel investigates itself, there is no need for an external body to do the same.

But there are serious deficiencies in the Israeli self-investigation practice, as the tendency there is not to take disciplinary or criminal actions against those involved in wrongdoings, and the inquiries are not transparent.

The UN team, no doubt, will look into IDF attacks on schools and hospitals during the Gaza war, but I strongly believe that their first priority, and top on their list of incidents-to-be-investigated should be the events that took place in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, August 1. There are three words that define this day: "The Hannibal Protocol".

On August 1, a humanitarian truce was due to start at 8am. Israeli forces, however, continued to search for Hamas tunnels. On one occasion infantry troops of the Givati brigade approached a house from where they were fired at. A battle ensued. Two Israeli troops were killed and a third, Lt Hadar Goldin, could not be seen. It was assumed that he was abducted by Hamas militants.

In the Israeli psyche, since their Lebanon wars, an abducted soldier is a nightmare. The captors often manage to use the soldier as a bargaining chip to squeeze major concessions from Israel, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

As a result, the Israeli army came up with its “Hannibal Protocol”. Concocted during Israel's Lebanon offensive in the 80s, it allows the IDF to use massive firepower to prevent the kidnapping of any soldier in the minutes and hours after they're seized.


This procedure was fine for Lebanon, as the areas where it was used were open lands and sparsely populated. But on August 1, when the Hannibal Protocol was used in an attempt to thwart the capture of Lt Goldin, the area was Rafah — one of the most densely populated areas on earth. The results were devastating.

The Israeli forces didn't give the Palestinians of Rafah any warning, but embarked on the most aggressive bombing campaign of Operation Protective Edge. Airplanes struck Rafah 40 times, dropping massive bombs on its civilian neighbourhoods, and heavy artillery pumped more than 1,000 shells into the area. Tanks also invaded, firing in all directions, and heavy bulldozers moved in to flatten scores of houses on the heads of people who were still inside.

Palestinians who did manage to jump into cars to escape the inferno were shot at, and cars carrying injured civilians trying to approach the Rafah hospital were also attacked. The blitz lasted three hours and killed more than 150 Palestinians. It also injured hundreds of others, having buried them under the rubble.

The colonel who orchestrated the assault on Rafah was Ofer Winter, the commander of the Givati Brigade. A religious settler, on the eve of the Gaza war he dispatched a letter to his troops, laden with biblical references, which perhaps explains the ferocity with which they attacked Rafah.

Palestinian rescue workers search the rubble for survivors following the strike on Rafah Palestinian rescue workers search the rubble for survivors following the strike on Rafah  










What Colonel Winter called on his troops to do was, effectively, to conduct a religious war on Gaza. Here are some quotes from his letter:

"History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy from Gaza which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles … We will… wipe out the enemy… Using all means at our disposal and with all required force… I turn my eyes to the sky and call with you ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.’ God, the Lord of Israel, make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who defames your name."

Colonel Winter managed to wipe out many Palestinians — but alas, they were non-combatant civilians. Therefore his actions, as well as those working with him, must be thoroughly investigated by the UN to establish whether it amounted to war crimes. We cannot allow The Hannibal Protocol to be used in such a way again.

What a rising demand for the sperm of IDF soldiers and a "fun" questionnaire reveal about Israel
The UK needs to stop selling arms to Israel and open its eyes to the suffering caused by inaction

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond

To hear the Yes campaigners, you’d think London was the most evil place on Earth

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam