In one of the most decisive, shocking incidents of a brutal war, NRG reports (Hebrew) that the IDF killed three of its own soldiers after it feared they’d been captured by Hamas fighters. The incident was one in which Lt. Goldin was captured (possibly after he’d already been killed) and two of his comrades were killed. Amir Rappoport, writing for NRG, says:
As a result of activation of the Hannibal Directive, three IDF soldiers were killed and 120 [ed., the actual number was 160] Palestinian civilians were killed from cannon fire [as a result of IDF fire that destroyed the surrounding neighborhood].
The incident [the Hamas attack] resulted from dealing with the tunnels, during which a suspected Hamas cell emerged from one of the houses. The cell included a suicide bomber and began a battle during which three of the Givati soldiers were killed. It should be stated that in the process of attempting to stop the “kidnapping” of Hadar Goldin, the Hannibal Directive was implemented. This resulted, according to Palestinian sources, in 120 deaths, the majority of which were civilians.
…A number of terrorists emerged from a tunnel in Rafah with the goal of “kidnapping” a soldier. At the same time, Givati troops were on patrol in the area, under the command of Maj. Benaya Sarel, attempting to locate and destroy tunnels. The force met a cell in an open area between the houses where there it had identified an open shaft. That’s where they [the Palestinian force] took the missing soldier and the same shaft from which they [originally] emerged [for their attack]. Givati forces recognized that a “kidnapping” had occurred and, according to reports, activated the Hannibal Directive, according to which the IDF lays down fire in the direction of the “kidnappers.”
Afterward, they commenced heavy fire in that direction, which it appears struck all the fighters [both the Hamas cell and captured IDF soldiers]. Other units arrived to assist in freeing them, at which time they understood the team leader was missing.
It’s important to note that nowhere in this report does it say that the Hamas fighters killed the three IDF soldiers who died during this skirmish (though it does say the cell may’ve fled into the tunnel with Goldin’s body). The entire premise is that the IDF killed them as a result of the massive amount of fire it used after the Hannibal Directive was declared. This fact has never been reported in the Israeli media. Until now, it was only suspected that Goldin had died as a result of deliberate fire from his own comrades.
What’s equally interesting is that Rappoport at no time makes much of this dramatic finding. Instead, he focuses on blaming the Gaza division commander for refusing to allow the Givati tank force to destroy houses in which his troops suspected tunnels, due to a ceasefire. The report seeks to blame him for not being aggressive enough and not being willing to violate the ceasefire even if it meant protecting his men.
It’s standard for Israeli media to focus on dereliction of duty in refusing the use of maximum force, rather than on a far more troubling fact that Israeli soldiers killed their own during this operation.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.