Col. Ariel Ben-Dayan, Commander of the IDF Center for Air Transport and Special Training, on Tuesday night concluded a thorough investigation of an event Monday night when two soldiers of Oketz, an independent canine special forces unit, entered Qalandiya, a hostile refugee camp located just west of the Jerusalem municipality boundary, and had to be rescued. The investigation report, which took less than 24 hours to prepare, was handed to Chief Infantry and Paratroops Officer, Brigadier General Yehuda Fuchs, who turned around and immediately took disciplinary measures against the two soldiers’ immediate superiors:
The commander of the Oketz unit received a reprimand in his personal file.
The company commander also received a reprimand in his personal file.
The deputy company commander received a suspended prison term.
The platoon commander was ousted and received a seven-day prison sentence.
This was probably the swiftest IDF response to a military failure in recent history, with less than 48 hours from the event to the punishment. The reason for this unmistaken show of alarm begins and ends with the most crucial component of the IDF rules of engagement, which provides the foundation to the Israeli army’s determination to go out of its way to prevent any Israeli soldiers from falling in Arab hands. It’s known as the Hannibal Directive.
THE HANNIBAL DIRECTIVE
The Hannibal Directive was conceived in 1986, and authorizes an all out attempt to stop abductors of Israeli soldiers, including by shooting at them, even if it puts at risk the lives of enemy civilians or even the lives of the captured Israeli soldiers. Some in the media have claimed that the policy in fact encourages the killing of captured soldiers who cannot possibly be rescued, in order to prevent the need for mass prisoner exchanges, as was the case in the Gilad Shalit abduction. Shalit’s freedom came in exchange for 1,027 prisoners with blood on their hands, several of whom went right back to their terrorist trade.
During the 2014 Gaza war, the IDF believed that Soldier Hadar Goldin had been captured by Arab terrorists during combat, and reportedly activated the Hannibal Directive. A large-scale military operation followed, including the bombing of possible escape routes from the Rafah tunnels where Goldin had been taken. According to Ha’aretz at the time, the operation killed many Arabs, in the “most devastating” execution of the Hannibal Directive. An IDF inquiry later concluded that Goldin had probably been killed when the battle started. The inquiry also concluded that 41 Arabs were killed, 12 of them Hamas combatants.
A TERRIFYING NIGHT IN QALANDIYA
The event in Qalandiya was the first time since the 2014 war the IDF had to initiate the Hannibal Directive, after the driver and squad commander from the Oketz unit supposedly relied on the GPS program Waze to navigate to a point near Ramallah and drove instead into an Arab village which is among the most militarized in Judea and Samaria, and in possession of a hefty stash of weapons, conventional and improvised.
Needless to say the IDF navigation protocol does not include the instruction, “just turn on Waze and follow.” Every single military driving mission must be prepared by an officer who provides navigational information. For one thing, the IDF navigation is based on intelligence regarding the current safety of each turn in the road, while Waze is programmed to offer the most convenient path, which in this case led the two hapless soldiers into a hornet’s nest.
Both soldiers were in uniform and carried weapons and ammunition, and their car was obviously the property of the IDF. Confrontations with the local Arabs ensued immediately, starting with rocks being thrown at their vehicle, then Molotov cocktails, one of which hit the car and set it on fire. The two soldiers exited the car and split up — one hid in a nearby courtyard, using his weapon to fire in the air a few times, the other hightailed it to the nearby Jewish community of Kochav Yaakov. The soldier who stayed in the camp used his cellphone to contact his commanders. The other soldier’s whereabouts were unknown, which triggered the Hannibal Directive.
What followed could have ended up in WW3, complete with condemnations of Zionist war crimes from all over the globe, diplomatic ties ruined, you name it — because the directive necessarily means, occasionally, an enormously disproportionate response to the actual problem on the ground. The Army dumped forces on Qalandiya, some of whom were not familiar with the terrain. At least ten rescuers were wounded during that overnight effort, five soldiers from the Duvdevan special forces unit and five Border Guard cops. The assault triggered yet another round of violence from the Qalandiya residents, and two armed Arabs were killed, one of them from a bullet to the head. But it could have ended up much worse, with, for instance, the shooting of the hidden IDF soldier by his own comrades, if they became convinced he had been abducted, or the collateral killing of civilians.
CHANGE YOUR WAZE
According to Ha’aretz, over the past few weeks there have been several instances where IDF soldiers walked into Area A territory, where the assumption of being shot on sight is fairly realistic. One was a petty officer from Samaria who drove his car into Shechem, the other incident involved two Golani Brigade soldiers who entered Jenin by mistake. And a bus full of soldiers reached the outskirts of an Arab city in Judea and Samaria.
The IDF command would like to avoid initiating the Hannibal Directive in such cases, thank you very much — they continue to deny it exists, in fact. And so, the swift punishments meted out Tuesday, less than a day after the harrowing event, were meant to deliver a message to the entire Army — navigate, don’t Waze.
BY the way, Waze argues it wasn’t their fault. As anyone who has used a Google Maps based GPS in Israel would attest, the program refuses to offer directions beyond the “green line” while one is still in 1967 Israel. Only after a motorist had crossed over, would the wondrous routes of Judea and Samaria become open to them. Waze announced that their program “includes a specific default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through. In this case, the setting was disabled. In addition, the driver deviated from the suggested route and as a result, entered the prohibited area. There are also red signs on the road in question that prohibit access (for Israelis) to Palestinian-controlled territories. It is the responsibility of every driver to adhere to road and traffic signs and obey local laws.
“Waze has and is continuing to work directly with the relevant authorities to decrease such mishaps from occurring, but unfortunately there is no ability to prevent them altogether as ultimately some prudence is in the driver’s hands,” the statement concludes.
You can say that again, Siri.
H/T to HW