Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90
Israeli military vehicles and tanks near the Gaza border.

The “Hannibal Protocol” is an IDF procedure establishing a series of regulations in the event of the abduction of a soldier. The procedure was created to activate an automatic response to thwart a kidnapping, without the need to receive approval from higher-ups, which can take a long time. The protocol includes setting up roadblocks, damaging infrastructure such as bridges and roads to prevent the kidnappers from advancing, and firing massive shots at the kidnappers while ignoring the risk to the life of the abductee. The name “Hannibal” was likely chosen because the Carthaginian General Hannibal committed suicide by swallowing poison rather than falling in the Romans’ hands.

According to Yaniv Kobowitz, reporting for Haaretz on Sunday, the security fighters who assembled in the Gaza envelope on October 7, 2023, were ordered, “No vehicle can reenter the Gaza Strip,” regardless of its precious cargo.


Documents obtained by Haaretz, along with testimonies from senior and mid-ranking IDF officers and soldiers, reveal a series of orders and procedures received by the Gaza Division, the Southern Command, and the General Staff before the afternoon of October 7. These reveal how extensive the use of the Hannibal Protocol was in the first hours of the Hamas attack at various points in the Gaza envelop.

It is difficult to estimate if and how many soldiers and civilians were harmed as a result of the protocol, but from the accumulated information it appears that quite a few of them were at risk, exposed to Israeli fire of which they were not the intended target.


More than a year before the October 7 attack, Israeli officials acquired Hamas’s battle strategy, dubbed “Jericho Wall.” This roughly 40-page document, reviewed by The New York Times, meticulously outlined the devastating assault that would ultimately claim about 1,200 lives.

Pictures of victims of the massacre that occurred at the Re’im music festival on October 7, 2023 / Zeev Stein Wikimedia

Despite possessing this intelligence, Israeli military and intelligence officials discounted the plan as unrealistic and beyond Hamas’s capabilities. The document, while not specifying a date, detailed a systematic attack designed to:

  1. Overwhelm Gaza Strip fortifications
  2. Occupy Israeli cities
  3. Raid crucial military installations, including a division headquarters

On October 7, Hamas executed this plan with alarming accuracy. As outlined in the document, the attack commenced with:

  1. An initial rocket barrage
  2. Drones disabling border security cameras and automated weapons
  3. A mass influx of attackers via paragliders, motorcycles, and on foot

This failure to heed clear warning signs raises serious questions about Israeli intelligence assessment and preparedness in the face of known threats.


Another protocol was enacted at 6:43 in the morning of October 7, when rocket barrages had already been launched into Israel and thousands of Hamas operatives were attacking outposts and damaging the Gaza division’s observation and communication capabilities. Division Commander Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld, and, separately, at 6:41 AM, Commander of the Southern Police District Superintendent Amir Cohen announced the “Philistine Horseman” protocol for the enemy’s raid into Israeli territory, endowing high commander with broader powers, including the use of heavy fire inside Israeli territory to stop a raid, even at the risk of Israeli lives.

At 7:18 AM, when the observation post at the Yiftach outpost reported a kidnapping from the Erez crossing, which is adjacent to the army’s coordination and liaison headquarters, the command “Hannibal in Erez” was issued, followed by, “Zik now,” meaning an unmanned aerial vehicle was ordered the fire on the kidnapper and his victim.

Over the next few hours, IDF drones continued to fire on outposts that were under attack, and the record is hazy on how many Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed.

At a little before 2 PM, all the fighting forces were ordered not to leave the settlements toward the border, and to avoid the pursuit of terrorists there. The area of ​​the fence became a killing field for the terrorists and for everyone else who was there. The order was to turn the area of ​​the fence into an extermination zone. It may never be known how many Israelis died there.

At 6:40 PM, Military Intelligence raised the possibility that many terrorists intended to flee together back to the Gaza Strip, in an organized fashion. In response, the army began firing artillery into the area of ​​the fence, very close to some of the settlements. A short time later, shells were also fired in the direction of the Erez crossing.

Brigadier General Barak Hiram / IDF

In this context, do read my report on Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram whose career has been put on hold as a result of adhering to the IDF protocol on October 7 (As Gaza Division Commander Resigns over October 7 Failure, his Successor’s Appointment Is Frozen over October 7 Triumphs).

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