News & Commentary

Haaretz (Further) Confirms IDF’s Use of Hannibal Directive on Oct 7

"It was entirely clear what the message meant, and what the fate of some of the kidnapped people would be"

When journalist Sam Husseini asked the US State Department about Israel’s “Hannibal Directive” last month—particularly its use on October 7 and/or against US citizens—spokesman Matthew Miller’s response was as telling as it was unbelievable.

“I am not familiar in any way with either that supposed directive or those reports…”

The Hannibal Directive, for those who don’t know (and Miller is certainly not one of those people), is an Israeli military policy that “stipulates the use of maximum force in the event of a soldier being kidnapped”; in other words, “open[ing] fire without constraints, in order to prevent the abduction,” to quote former IDF commander Yehuda Shaul. It was first introduced in 1986, has been written about extensively since October 7 (and before), has a lengthy Wikipedia page, and is even discussed on the State Department’s own website.

“It’s seems bizarre that [Miller] would tell me they don’t know about Israel’s Hannibal Directive,” Sam wrote after the exchange, “until you remember that they won’t acknowledge Israel’s nukes or its crimes against humanity.”

Now, a new story by Israeli news outlet Haaretz (further) confirms that yes—as The Grayzone, The Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and others have reported for many months—the Hannibal Directive was in fact used by the Israeli military on October 7.

Here are some of the key details from the article in timeline form, followed by some analysis and caveats.


7:18am: In response to a reported kidnapping at the Erez border crossing, a command is sent from divisional HQ saying: “Hannibal at Erez… dispatch a Zik.”

“The Zik is an unmanned assault drone, and the meaning of this command was clear,” reports Haaretz.

7:41am: “It happened again: Hannibal at Erez, an assault on the crossing and the base, just so that no more soldiers be taken. Such commands were given later as well.”

Next few hours: Division headquarters “started putting the pieces of the puzzle together” and “realizing the extent of the Hamas attack,” but “it seems that nothing changed” regarding “the frequency of employing the Hannibal procedure.”

10:19am: A report that a Zik [Israeli drone] has attacked the IDF’s Re’im base reaches divisional HQ.

10:22am: “Another such report” arrives.

“Anyone making such a decision knew that our combatants in the area could be hit as well.”

The Nahal Oz outpost, “in which female spotters are based,” is also reportedly “Hannibal’d.”

10:32am.: All battalions in the area are ordered to fire mortars in the direction of the Gaza Strip, where IDF soldiers, Israeli civilians, and potentially dozens of hostages (or more) are present

11:22am: An order—which Haaretz says was “understood by everyone”—is conveyed across the Gaza Division network: “Not a single vehicle can return to Gaza.”

“It was entirely clear what that message meant, and what the fate of some of the kidnapped people would be.”

11:22am (cont.): “Everyone knew by then that such vehicles could be carrying kidnapped civilians or soldiers.”

2:00pm (and possibly earlier): The IDF has turned the area around the border fence into a “killing zone” where “anyone in that area” is subjected to “intense fire.”

Some time after 6:40pm: The Israeli army launches artillery raids at the border fence area, “very close” to communities like Kibbutz Be’eri, Kfar Azza and/or Kissufim, and fires shells at the Erez border crossing.

9:33pm: The Hannibal Directive is apparently still in place, with an order from Southern Command instructing troops to “close off all the border area with tanks” and “open fire at anyone approaching the border area, without any restrictions.”

Again, read the full Haaretz story for more details and context.


While this article is yet another (indirect) admission that the aforementioned independent media outlets and many others were right about the Hannibal Directive being used on October 7 all along (duh), it cites a number of anonymous Israeli military sources and shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

One has to wonder about the timing, ulterior motives for such “disclosures” (especially now), and to what extent—and in what ways—it’s meant to function as a limited hangout, narrative control, etc.

As always, skepticism is very much warranted.

In particular, the article says that the IDF is “conducting internal investigations of what transpired on October 7” (and during “the preceding period”), and that “the results will be presented to the public with transparency.”

Considering that a lot of Haaretz’s info comes straight from the Israeli military, including “mid-level and senior” officers — and how belated this report is (a full nine months after October 7) — this may be (in part) the IDF’s way of getting out in front of their own “official” report.

Some of Haaretz’s sources in this article:

  • “a defense official who is familiar with the October 7 operations”
  • “a senior defense official”
  • “A very senior IDF source”
  • “a military source”
  • “a source in Southern Command”

Also, notice some of these anonymous IDF members’ quotes:

  • “no one knew what was going on”
  • “Everyone was shocked”
  • “There was crazy hysteria… decisions made without any verified information”
  • “The decision to conduct attacks inside outposts… will haunt senior commanders all their lives”

This is very much in line with the kinds of “mistakes were made”, “fog of war” language used by the Israeli and US governments after the IDF’s World Central Kitchen murders (among other atrocities), and may foreshadow a similar “official” limited hangout re: Hannibal.

From April:

Much more about that instructive episode here.

“Haaretz editors can feign criticism of the Israeli army and compassion for Palestinians,” comments Max Blumenthal, editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, “but they are as culpable as any other Zionist media hacks in manufacturing consent for the ongoing genocide.”

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Image Credit: Oren Rozen (CC BY-SA 4.0). May be modified from original.