IDF Report: Palestinians Inflated Casualty Stats in Gaza Operation
The IDF on Monday fired a salvo at critics of its policies in the recent Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, charging that Palestinian claims of casualties due to the use of the “Hannibal Protocol” during an attempted kidnapping of an officer were greatly exaggerated, Israel’s NRG News reported.
An internal army investigation into the events surrounding the abduction of late 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, at the beginning of August in Rafah in southern Gaza showed that 41 Palestinians were killed – at least 12 of them Hamas fighters – and not 130 civilians, as was widely reported by the media, using Hamas figures.
Goldin, a Givati Brigade recon officer, Maj. Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba and St.-Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem were killed when a Hamas suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel near Rafah, ran towards the squad of troops, and blew himself up.
The full investigation, which was presented in recent days by the IDF’s Southern Command to the General Staff, cross-referenced casualty lists from Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip, and intelligence sources.
While the Palestinians said the IDF fired indiscriminate heavy artillery at the vicinity of the smuggling tunnel where Goldin was dragged away in what critics called “one of the serious attacks by the IDF,” the army charged that precision artillery targets prepared as part of the rarely publicly-discussed Hannibal directive – which allows friendly forces to take extreme measures to thwart a soldier’s kidnapping, up to and including firing at fleeing abductors along with the hostage – in fact, limited casualties.
Another officer in the group ran into the tunnel after other terrorists who had dragged Goldin’s body along with them, to use as a bargaining chip. He succeeded in returning with bloodied scraps, which enabled forensic experts to later declare Goldin Killed in Action, robbing Hamas of the goal of the abduction.
“When I arrived, I saw two of our soldiers being taken into a house,” Lt. Eitan said at the time. “It was the same moment that we were told that we had found a tunnel opening at the location. Fearing a possible explosion, I ordered everyone to get away.”
“No one really knew what had happened but suddenly someone shouted: ‘Goldin’s gone, Goldin’s disappeared!’ We quickly started counting soldiers and everyone was present except one: Goldin was missing.”
At that moment, Lt. Eitan realized that Lt. Goldin had been kidnapped by Hamas forces dragging him into a tunnel. Lt. Eitan regrouped his unit and told them that two officers had been killed and that another soldier had likely been kidnapped. A deafening silence filled the room. “I have never experienced anything so difficult,” Lt. Eitan said.
“The brigade commander, Col. Ofer Winter, contacted me on the radio, and I told him that I was going into the tunnel to look for Goldin,” he said. “I went four meters down into the tunnel when it began to collapse. I could hardly see anything; sand and stones were obscuring the light. I returned to the surface, took my equipment, my helmet and gun, and went back into the tunnel with my soldiers.”
Lt. Eitan led a group of soldiers into the tunnel, warning that it could be booby trapped and that if danger arose, they needed to open fire immediately.
“There, I saw Hadar’s blood and his equipment.” To his right, Eitan found bags blocking the passage and a gun. He stepped forward, opened one of the bags and found explosives inside. He then sent an explosive expert to defuse them.
Lt. Eitan wanted to reach the end of the tunnel to find Lt. Goldin, but he knew that terrorists could kill him or take him hostage, he said.
“I turned around and said to my commander, ‘Count how long I’m here. I will run as fast as possible to reach the tunnel’s entrance. During this time, call the other soldiers into the tunnel. If I’m not back in 5 minutes – I’m dead.'”
Lt. Eitan started running as he fired. Inside the tunnel, he saw more explosives, weapons, and entrances to other tunnels. After 10 minutes, he decided to turn back, realizing that the danger was too great.
The first artillery shell was fired within seven minutes after Goldin was declared missing, and fighter jets joined in the bombing over an hour later.
According to the IDF spokesperson, around 9:30 a.m. terrorists opened fire at Israeli troops after emerging from the tunnel nearby. Two soldiers were wounded during the fire exchange. One of the Hamas gunmen detonated a suicide vest near the troops while others captured the soldier.
The incident took place 90 minutes into a 72 hour ceasefire that was announced jointly by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.