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UN finds at least 14 Israelis likely intentionally killed by own army on 7 October

New report documents repeated use of so-called Hannibal Directive in which abductees were killed to prevent their capture
Israeli army tanks deploy in an area of Israel's southern boundary with the Gaza Strip on 5 June (Jack Guez/AFP)
Israeli army tanks deploy in an area of Israel's southern boundary with the Gaza Strip on 5 June (Jack Guez/AFP)

At least 14 Israelis were likely intentionally killed by the Israeli army on 7 October as part of a protocol aimed at preventing capture, a new United Nations report has found.

The report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) documented repeated uses of the so-called Hannibal Directive on 7 October as Israel was combatting Hamas fighters who entered southern Israel from Gaza.

The directive, when active, indicates that the Israeli army should use any and all means to prevent the capture of Israeli soldiers, even if it involves killing them.

Even though the secretive directive was officially and publicly revoked in 2016, several Israeli outlets have reported that the actions and rhetoric of the army during the Hamas-led attack imply it was re-activated in some form.

The COI said it had confirmed one statement by an Israeli security forces tank crew, "confirming that the crew had applied the Hannibal Directive by shooting at a vehicle which they suspected was transporting abducted [Israeli] soldiers".

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It said it also had verified information indicating that, in at least two other cases, the security forces had likely applied the Hannibal Directive, resulting in the killing of up to 14 Israeli civilians.

"One woman was killed by [Israeli] helicopter fire while being abducted from Nir Oz to Gaza by militants," said the report, referring to one of the Kibbutzim from which people were abducted by Palestinian fighters.

"In another case the Commission found that Israeli tank fire killed some or all of the 13 civilian hostages held in a house in Beeri," it said, referring to another Kibbutz. 

More than 1,100 people were killed in the 7 October attack after Hamas and other armed groups broke through the barriers cutting Gaza off from southern Israel.

The New York Times reported on the attack on the house in Kibbutz Beeri in December.

According to that report, several Israeli captives being held by Palestinian fighters in Beeri were killed during crossfire with Israel's military, in what was described as "a delayed and chaotic military response". 

The Israeli military launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the house, according to witnesses. 

Barak Hiram, an Israeli general in charge of recapturing the kibbutz from Hamas fighters, recalled telling his men: "Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties."

Despite repeated criticism of his handling of the 7 October operation, Hiram was cleared of wrongdoing by an Israeli army investigation in April, which attributed the deaths of the captives to small arms fire.

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