Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth - www.jonathan-cook.net

Did Israel choose to kill Hamas and the hostages indiscriminately?

The case builds that Israel may have invoked its infamous ‘Hannibal directive’, which requires that the army kill Israelis rather than let them be taken hostage

So much space continues to be dedicated to the Hamas attack more than two weeks on. But this article from Mondoweiss is a rare attempt to try to piece together the events of October 7 without relying simply on Israel’s official, increasingly strained narrative.

The author explains the response of the Israeli army to Hamas’ incursion into Israel and capture of Israeli communities near Gaza in terms of Israel’s infamous “Hannibal directive”. That military directive compels the Israeli army to kill Israelis rather than let them be taken hostage. It usually applies to military personnel, but has been used against Israeli civilians too.

The author cites plenty of evidence indicating that the Hannibal directive was likely to have been applied as policy towards Israeli civilians captured by Hamas and held hostage in their own homes inside Israel.

In other words, the army appears to have preferred to kill both Israeli civilians and the Hamas militants holding them rather than try to negotiate a release.

That would explain the images of Israeli communities near Gaza that are in ruins, with sections of the walls of homes blasted down and the remains of buildings charred by fire. The article cites evidence that this appears not necessarily to have happened in the heat of battle after the army’s arrival but following a prolonged stand-off with Hamas.

Were a significant number of the 1,400 Israelis who died during the Hamas attack killed as a result of intentional efforts to stop them being taken by Hamas into Gaza?

Here is an Israeli survivor of the Hamas attack speaking about how the Israeli army sprayed her building with live fire, killing Hamas militants and Israeli civilians indiscriminately – in line with the ‘Hannibal directive’.

Electronic Intifada first unearthed this interview, noting that it appears to have been taken down by Israeli radio.

Hamas’ release of an American mother and daughter last week, which has tended to baffle western media outlets, can be understood most easily in the context of Israel’s Hannibal directive.

Hamas knows only too well about the directive. It assumes Israel will choose to kill all the hostages Hamas now has in Gaza that cannot be recovered through a ground invasion rather than engage in negotiations for their return.

Hamas also understands that Israel will make the case that there was no chance to bring the hostages home. That is why Israel is working so hard to argue that Hamas is the same as al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

It was the reason Israel promoted the evidence-free claim that Hamas beheaded babies – paradoxically what little evidence Israel did produce, mainly of what looked like a charred small body, may have been a death from a fire its own military activity caused.

This week President Isaac Herzog launched a new disinformation operation, claiming a dead Hamas fighter was found with an al-Qaeda manual on how to make chemical weapons. Even assuming the manual was not planted, it contains no such information.

This kind of manipulation of western public opinion is designed to soften us up for an intensification of Israeli atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide. The logic of Israel’s messaging is that, if it faces a death cult like Islamic State, it must do whatever is possible to root it out of Gaza.

The argument is that Hamas is immune to reason, there is nothing to negotiate over, and therefore committing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza is fully justified.

Conversely, Hamas is trying to show that it is ready to do a deal and release the hostages. However, that would need Israel to address its many grievances, including negotiating a ceasefire to end the current bombing campaign against Gaza, freeing Palestinian prisoners, and ending the 16-year siege of the enclave. Israel is not ready to make concessions on any of these points.

The wider problem for Hamas is that western media is in lockstep with Israeli spin that Hamas is a death cult like Islamic State and cannot be talked to, rather than the reality that it is a political and military resistance movement fighting for Palestinian liberation. As a result, many of the Israeli hostages are likely to die unnecessarily – alongside, of course, far larger numbers of Palestinians.

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