The Hannibal Directive

47.5 minutes documentary, 2015

The Hannibal Directive was a highly classified military order used by the Israeli army. It was created in 1986 by three top army commanders and outlined the measures to be taken in the event that an Israeli soldier was captured during combat. The order’s intention was to prevent the enemy from escaping with the captured soldier, even if it meant putting the soldier’s life and the lives of civilians at risk. The Hannibal Directive was last implemented during the 2014 Gaza War, also known as Operation Protective Edge, during which over 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed.

On August 1, 2014, the Israeli Army invoked the Hannibal Directive at Rafah in southern Gaza to prevent Hamas fighters from fleeing with a captured Israeli officer. The intense action that followed resulted in the deaths of at least 135 civilians, 75 of whom were children. Amnesty International and other NGOs have labelled the events of that day, referred to as “Black Friday,” as a war crime.

This documentary is exploring the secret history of the Hannibal Directive, including its origins, recent use, and implications. The film, made amidst the ongoing controversy surrounding the doctrine’s morality and application, features interviews with former Israeli soldiers, reservists, and civilians who were divided on whether the policy, which resulted in the deaths of numerous innocent civilians, could ever be justified. The order was eventually quietly revoked by the Israeli military in June 2016.

Production: A 2911 Foundation and Al Jazeera English production

Broadcast: Al Jazeera English, October 2016

The Hannibal Directive