Was October 7th a Hamas or Israeli massacre?

William Van Wagenen, TheCradle, November 24, 2023 —

Israel’s controversial military policy of killing its own citizens to preserve national security may be its defining mistake of 7 October. Would there have even been a ‘massacre’ that day if Israel had not employed the Hannibal Directive?

A farewell ceremony was recently held for 12-year-old Liel Hezroni, an Israeli girl from Kibbutz Be’eri who died during the Hamas-led Al-Aqsa Flood military operation on 7 October. There was no traditional burial, just a ceremony, because her body has never been found.

Israeli officials initially claimed that the Palestinian resistance killed 1,400 Israelis that day, including 112 in Be’eri. Though Liel died on “Israel’s darkest day,” no government official attended the farewell ceremony to offer condolences to her family. Nor has the Israeli government investigated her death or told her relatives how she died.

This is because Leil was likely not killed by Hamas, but by the Israeli army.

Liel died when Israeli military forces fired two tank shells into a home in Be’eri that held 15 Israeli hostages and the 40 Hamas fighters who had taken them captive.

Yasmin Porat, 44, is one of two Israelis to have survived the incident. She remained with Liel and other hostages for several hours in the house, guarded, she says, by fighters who treated them “humanely,” and whose “objective was to kidnap us to Gaza. Not to murder us.”

Porat’s bombshell revelation was that when Israeli forces arrived, “they eliminated everyone, including the hostages,” the mother of three told Kan. “There was very, very heavy crossfire.”

Israeli forces’ role in the music festival attack

An official Israeli police investigation into the Nova music festival attack near the Gaza border adds to the growing claims that the army killed civilians. The initial narrative of a Hamas-led massacre of 260 Israelis is swiftly being debunked as Israeli citizens demand investigations and more information surfaces.

According to Haaretz, a police source disclosed that an Israeli combat helicopter, upon arrival, not only targeted Hamas fighters but also fired at Israelis attending the festival. The police report has now adjusted the festival death toll to 364 casualties.

A report from Yedioth Ahronoth on 15 October suggested that Hamas intentionally made it difficult for pilots to distinguish between them and Israelis by dressing in civilian clothing. This, it is argued, made the pilots hesitate to attack targets on the ground at first, but they soon began to fire indiscriminately:

“The rate of fire against the thousands of terrorists was tremendous at first, and only at a certain point did the pilots begin to slow down the attacks and carefully select the target.”

The willingness of occupation forces to unleash overwhelming firepower in this way helps explain the large death toll on 7 October. It also sheds a light on the stark discrepancy between two narratives – one, of a trigger-happy, murderous Hamas that killed hundreds “indiscriminately,” versus the other picture, Palestinian fighters who treated captives ”humanely.”

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev admitted in an interview last week on MSNBC that the initial death count of 1,400 Israelis from the resistance operation was a mistake. The revised count lowered the number to 1,200.

We “overestimated, we made a mistake,” Regev said. “There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end, apparently, they were Hamas terrorists.”

If some 200 Hamas fighters and Palestinians were burned so severely by tank and helicopter fire that they could not be identified, logic dictates that many Israelis met a similar fate. It may also explain why there was nothing left of Liel Herzoni’s body to bury at her farewell ceremony.

Holes in Tel Aviv’s narrative 

Hadas Dagan, the other eyewitness to the event in which Liel was killed, also confirmed that when the Israeli tank arrived, two shells were fired, and then “there was complete silence.” Not only Liel, but also her brother Yanai and their aunt Ayla, who raised them, perished in the home.

A report by Haaretz on 20 October corroborated the two witness statements that Israeli forces shelled houses in Be’eri and killed the Israeli detainees inside. Journalist Nir Hasson reports that according to a resident of Be’eri named Tuval Escapa, whose partner was killed in the attack, it was:

“Only after the commanders in the field made difficult decisions – including shelling houses with their occupants inside to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages – did the IDF [Israeli army] complete the takeover of the kibbutz. The price was terrible. A least 112 people from Be’eri were killed.”

The Haaretz report notes further that “11 days after the massacre, the bodies of a mother and her son were discovered in one of the destroyed houses. It is believed that more bodies are still lying in the rubble.”

Unanswered questions 

On 15 November, Keren Neubach, a journalist and television presenter for the Israeli Kan broadcaster, spoke with Omri Shafroni, a member of Kibbutz Be’eri and a relative of Liel. Omri is still not sure how Liel was killed:

“I do not rule out the possibility that Liel and others were killed by IDF [Israeli army] fire. It could be that they died from the terrorists’ fire, or it could be that they died from the IDF’s fire, because there was a very heavy firefight. I don’t know and I don’t want to just say.”

But he is angry that the Israeli government refuses to investigate what happened in Be’eri that day, despite the testimonies that have emerged.

“We have known what Yasmin told for more than a month, we heard it from Yasmin and Hadas and from our people from the kibbutz whose relatives were killed there. But no official came and told us what happened in this house,” Omri laments:

“It is very strange to me that until now we have not conducted an operational investigation into an event in which 13 hostages were apparently murdered and no negotiations were carried out. Maybe an order was received that it is impossible to negotiate under these conditions? I don’t know, but until now we have not done any operational investigation. And no one is there to talk to us about what happened in the event.”

If an order was indeed received not to negotiate, and to instead fire tank shells into a home filled with Israeli settlers, this would mean Israeli military leaders asked commanders on the ground to implement the controversial “Hannibal Directive.”

Extreme force for extreme ends 

The Times of Israel described how the “directive allows soldiers to use potentially massive amounts of force to prevent a soldier from falling into the hands of the enemy. This includes the possibility of endangering the life of the soldier in question in order to prevent his capture.”

“Some officers, however, understand the order to mean that soldiers ought to deliberately kill their comrade to stop him from being taken prisoner,” the paper added.

A Haaretz investigation of the directive concluded further that “from the point of view of the army, a dead soldier is better than a captive soldier who himself suffers and forces the state to release thousands of captives in order to obtain his release.”

In the past, Israeli commanders have been faced with situations where just one soldier is being taken captive. But that all changed on 7 October, as their army was faced with an unprecedented and unfamiliar situation in which hundreds of Israelis were being taken as prisoners of war to the densely populated Gaza Strip.

In an interview with Haaretz on 15 November, reserve Israeli Air Force Colonel Nof Erez suggests that the military took the Hannibal Directive to a new level when their Apache helicopters arrived on the scene:

“What we saw here was ‘mass Hannibal.’ There were many openings in the fence, thousands of people in many different vehicles, with hostages and without.”

A cover for genocide 

A formal probe into the killing of Liel Hezroni and the nearly 1,200 other Israelis killed alongside her is unlikely to happen soon, if at all.

In the wake of Al-Aqsa Flood, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been heavily criticized for the intelligence failures that allowed for the Palestinian resistance’s success. He has promised an investigation but refuses to undertake it until after the war.

Should a probe take place, it will likely find that Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders feel that a dead 12-year-old Israeli girl is better than an imprisoned 12-year-old Israeli girl.

Yet a sobering realization also emerges: a lifeless Liel Herzoni has potentially been exploited to rationalize the dehumanization of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, including more than a million children, labeling them as “human animals” and providing a pretext for the ruthless, genocidal Israeli actions the world has witnessed on social media over the past six weeks.

Since 7 October, Israel has indiscriminately carpet bombed Gaza, directing its attacks towards homes, mosques, churches, hospitals, and schools. This relentless assault has resulted in the tragic loss of over 14,000 Palestinian lives, more than 5,000 of them children.

In the midst of this unprecedented onslaught, one is compelled to question: if Israel shows little regard for the lives of its own settler-citizens, what hope remains for the oppressed Palestinian population as they endure an offensive fueled by a rage-driven aggression? All of this “justified,” of course, by a “Hamas massacre” that may never have happened.

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