August 5, 2015


The military operation in Gaza that still haunts Israel 1 year later (William Booth, 8/04/15, The Washington Post)

Black Friday began in the flat fields east of the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli troops were searching for a tunnel to destroy when they were ambushed by Hamas fighters. Lt. Hadar Goldin was pulled into a hole in the ground.

Radio communications, alongside video mounted on a soldier's helmet, portray the chaotic events, with Israeli commanders initially not sure who was dead or alive.

Within minutes, senior Israeli commanders shouted the order to declare a "Hannibal Directive," a classified protocol understood by many Israeli troops to mean "better a dead soldier than a captured soldier."

Israeli soldiers dropped grenades into the tunnel and then went searching for their comrade in the darkness, firing bursts into the gloom.

Lt. Eitan Fund, 24, rushed forward to thwart the capture of his friend. "If I'm not back in five minutes -- I'm dead," he said, according to Israeli accounts. He did make it back, and was later awarded a medal for heroism.

Fund found bloody pieces of Goldin's uniform; Goldin was declared dead the next day based on the forensic evidence found in the tunnel, even though his body is still missing and still sought by Israel and his family.

Col. Ofer Winter was the commander of the Givati Brigade who issued the Hannibal Directive, which led to multiple strikes on tunnel openings, crowded intersections and a central hospital, all to stop Hamas from spiriting Goldin away, according to Amnesty.

The Amnesty report suggests that Winter also wanted to teach Hamas a lesson, and the group quoted the colonel telling an Israeli newspaper: "Anyone who abducts should know that he will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade."

Palestinian witnesses to the events on Black Friday describe chaos and terror -- as civilians returning to their homes during the cease-fire were suddenly subjected to intense shelling.

Yussef Abed, a surgeon at the al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, said he arrived at work at noon by ambulance that day. He was too scared to drive his own car because Israelis had ordered everyone off the streets.

In his office, the window glass exploded as an Israeli bomb destroyed a home a few hundred meters away. The hospital was packed with wounded; the morgue was filling with bodies. Frightened residents crowded into the hallways, hoping the hospital was safe.

"It was like the last scene in that movie about the Titanic before the boat sinks," Abed said. "Then people began to panic."

Doctors' cellphones began to ring with calls from Israeli soldiers from intelligence units, warning the staff not to leave and threatening them, saying that Israel suspected Goldin was being treated or held captive in the hospital, Abed said. "Then everyone went nuts."

An ambulance crew that left earlier was struck by a missile, the medics incinerated, Abed said. Patients fled the hospital, still attached to intravenous bottles.

Abed said that Goldin never arrived at his hospital and that the shelling around the building kept the wounded from being treated.

Nearby, according to the Amnesty report, Israel dropped one-ton bombs in the al-Tannur neighborhood.

Rateb Bilbisi, whose family owns the grocery there, said Palestinians from east Rafah were seeking shelter from the sun under trees and awnings when huge explosions toppled the building across the street, leaving more than 16 dead, all of them civilians.

"We found a head a block away," Bilbisi said. "That's how big the bomb was."

He said bodies remained on the streets for a day because no ambulances could enter the area.

Posted by at August 5, 2015 12:09 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus