Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hannibal Lector - The Killing Machine

'Hannibal' - we are told was a name was used to frighten Roman children. We know from their speeches in the Senate, that Romans saw him as probably a greater threat than we see most of ours. We know, again from their writings,  that when Hannibal Barca the ruler of Carthage, was finally defeated by the legions of Scipio Africanus at the battle of Zama. The Romans destroyed his city, put his people to the sword and salted the fields around the ruin to ensure the land itself would be sterile. 'Carthago delenda est' became the watchword for dealing with impending danger. Carthage, (and Hannibal)  must be destroyed.

There are other references to that Hannibal - crossing the Alps, with his elephants of course. And the new Hannibal - the charming psychopath of print and screens.

 Now there's a new 'ambiguation' for the name - a code word used by the Israeli Defense Forces to alert that a member has been 'kidnapped'. That's not the bad part.

 The kidnapping of Jewish soldiers and, indeed, even the return of the bodies of dead soldiers, has been, in the past, one of those things that brings Jews and their Arab enemies together to negotiate. Generally the negotiations are about the 'swap' or exchange - most often imprisoned Arabs for dead, or kidnapped Israelis. Sometimes the process can take years, and a toll on Israeli governments being pressed to,  'do something'. The case of Gilad Shalit - held captive in Gaza for a number of years being one of the foremost recent cases.

It happened again this summer in the refugee town of Rafah in Gaza , or it almost happened again.

Just after a ceasefire in Operation Protective Edge started, on August 1st,  2014, it was announced  that a young Israeli officer had been 'captured'. The news was  immediately  widespread (the Gaza operation itself arising directly from the kidnapping of three Israeli schoolboys) and even President Obama made mention of the incident in a television appearance, demanding the immediate release of the soldier. In actuality, as was later found to be the case, the soldier was already dead - his body abandoned by his unit retreating after an 'ambush'.

IDF had been involved in an operation to find and destroy 'tunnels' that Israel  had discovered after starting an anti-missile operation  and which, it was claimed,  had been prepared to attack Israel from Gaza.  One of those units operating in Fatah was 'ambushed' by Hamas forces emerging suddenly 'from a hidden tunnel'. In the resulting firefight, Captain Hadar Goldin was felled and his unit forced to retreat. It was reported that he had been 'taken prisoner'.

Following the Shalit kidnapping, and another that precipitated the last 'war' with Lebanon, the topic of 'kidnapped' personnel became a focus for study by the IDF. According to Ofer Winter   the commanding officer of the IDF unit to which Hadar Goldin belonged, a religious ruling in regard to the relative merits of a kidnapped soldier and a dead soldier were compared - as a 'benefit' to the State of Israel or the Israeli people.   The ruling indicated that a dead soldier was 'better' than a kidnapped soldier. And so arose the rationale for what happened next.

Hannibal Directive

 The CO admits that when he was informed of the 'kidnapping', having ordered his unit 'to take ground' to preclude the movement of the captive and then learning that it was going to be impossible to rescue the soldier, he focused on making sure there would be no hostage situation. Despite the ceasefire, he gave the codeword "Hannibal" - ordering a bombardment of the street in Rafah camp where the soldier was last seen. More than 300 shells were fired into the area over the following two days, along with 10 air strikes - in an attempt to kill both the Israeli and his captors.

The commander claims that he was unaware that Gazans had re-entered their homes in the area, given the ceasefire, to retrieve belongings and to check damage. 131 civilians including 53 children were killed in the "Hannibal" strikes.

He also said he would not hesitate to give the 'Hannibal order' again.

The matter is the subject of an 'internal' criminal investigation by the IDF into a number of occurrences in the course of Operation Protective Edge (Steep Cliff).

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