Report Confirms Israel Ordered ‘Hannibal Directive’ During October 7 Response

The directive means the Israeli military could use any means to prevent Israelis from being taken captive even if it puts their life in danger

A report published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday confirmed that the Israeli military implemented a secretive procedure known as the “Hannibal directive” during the response to the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

The directive allows Israeli forces to prevent Israelis from being taken hostage, even if that means putting their lives in danger. The directive had historically only applied to soldiers, but it was also used on Israeli civilians during the October 7 response.

A “very senior” source in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed to Haaretz that the Hannibal directive was ordered on October 7. The report also cited documents and testimonies from soldiers and officers and found that the order was given multiple times throughout the day.

One of the orders came at 11:22 am, hours into the Hamas attack, which said, “Not a single vehicle can return to Gaza.” The report said that at this point in the attack, “the IDF was not aware of the extent of kidnapping along the Gaza border, but it did know that many people were involved. Thus, it was entirely clear what that message meant and what the fate of some of the kidnapped people would be.”

There has been other evidence of Israeli forces implementing the Hannibal directive on October 7, including a January report from the Israeli news site Ynet. The report said that about 70 vehicles were destroyed by the Israeli military as they were on their way back to Gaza. Many of the cars were likely carrying Israeli captives.

The Ynet report said the IDF “instructed all its fighting units to perform the Hannibal directive in practice, although it did so without stating that name explicitly.” But the Haaretz report said the Hannibal directive was explicitly ordered in some cases, including when the IDF learned someone was kidnapped near the Erez border crossing.

At 7:18 am on the morning of October 7, the IDF’s Gaza Division gave the order “Hannibal at Erez” and dispatched a Zik unmanned assault drone. The order was given again for Erez just over 20 minutes later and several other times throughout the day in response to attacks on Israeli military outposts.

In one incident at the Kibbutz Be’eri, Israeli tanks shelled a house that contained Hamas militants and Israeli hostages, killing 13 Israeli civilians, including 12-year-old twin sisters. The officer who ordered the shelling, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, acknowledged to The New York Times that he ordered the attack “even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

A UN report found IDF helicopter fire killed one Israeli woman while she was being abducted by Hamas from the Kibbutz Nir Oz. Haaretz previously reported that an Israeli police report found IDF helicopter fire “hit” attendees of the Nova music festival.

The “very senior” IDF source who told Haaretz about the Hannibal directive did not say who gave the initial order on October 7, but it likely came from very far up the chain of command. The Haaretz report reads: “Who did give the order? This, said the source, will perhaps be established by post-war investigations.”

According to the latest figures from Israel, a total of 1,163 Israelis were killed during the October 7 attack, including 767 civilians, 20 hostages, and 376 members of the security forces. It’s unclear how many of the casualties were due to Israeli fire. The Israeli military is expected to release a report this month that found “many casualties due to our forces firing on our forces,” which could shed more light on the scale of the IDF killings of Israelis.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.