IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz responded to exclusive recordings published by Ynet over the IDF's 'Black Friday' in Ramallah during the Gaza war, saying that "the IDF is not a reality show and neither is war. There are a lot of stories being published about Givati recently… and everyone should know the commanders are the best there are."
Gantz backed the Givati commander regarding the events of August 1, saying "it is unacceptable that recordings from a military operation are published. Not because we have something to hide, but because there is still an ongoing investigation. I have faith in the commanders… (but) if there were mistakes we will deal with them."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon echoed Gantz's comments, saying that "if we find something was out of order, we will deal with it."
Addressing the possibility some of the soldiers and officers who participated in the fighting that day could face criminal charges, Ya'alon said that "you can't see the full picture from the recordings. We need to hold an in-depth investigation of the incident and understand what happened there."
The defense minister said the Chief Military Prosecutor's top priority is to protect the soldiers. "Givati is a very good brigade and if someone erred, we know how to handle it appropriately - primarily within the army and if necessary, with other means. It's precisely the fact there are few investigations being conducted that will protect the soldiers," he added.
Four months after Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured (and later killed) during Operation Protective Edge, and only days ahead of the Chief Military Prosecutor's decision on whether to launch a criminal investigation into the conduct of the IDF officers who led the pursuit after the captive soldier in Rafah, audio recordings from the IDF's communication system obtained by Ynet shed light on the dramatic moments of that fateful Friday morning.
The recordings tell the story of the a dramatic chain of events in which Sec.-Lt. Goldin was captured by Hamas operatives and taken into a Hamas tunnel after a fire fight broke out between IDF tropps and Hamas cell operatives as the IDF was patrolling the area for terror tunnels.
The audio recordings provide a harrowing account of the officers engaging the terrorists, attempting to capture a Hamas base, and repeatedly attacking the mosque in which the terror tunnel ended – until reaching the conclusion that Sec.-Lt. Goldin was no longer alive.
In those critical hours – from the moment of the encounter which led to Sec.-Lt. Goldin's capturing at 9:16am and until midday – the IDF implemented the Hannibal Directive which states that at the time of a capture of an IDF soldier the main mission becomes ending the kidnapping - even if that means injury to Israeli soldiers, including the one captured.
The Hannibal Directive allows commanders to take whatever action is necessary to prevent a situation where Israel is forced to negotiate with captors, including endangering the life of a captured soldier, to foil the capture.
The commanders in charge of the operation, who could be targeted by a military police investigation, were Lieutenant Colonel Eli Gino (commander of Givati's reconnaissance company) and Colonel Ofer Vinter (Givati Brigade's commander).
Palestinians claim that the bombing that ensued as part of the Hannibal Directive, primarily from the air and from artillery units, included hundreds of shells and bombs that were fired recklessly and caused the deaths of dozens of innocent Palestinians and the wounding of hundreds more.
A month and a half after Sec.-Lt. Goldin's capture and death, the commanders – Gino, Chen, and Ben-Hemo – told Ynet in a special interview that their conscience was clear and they were not worried of an investigation as they had operated according to the orders they received for such an incident.
"There was no recklessness and we only attacked suspicious targets. I am proud of my soldiers and their conduct," insisted Lt. Col. Gino.
The audio recordings were published with permission from the IDF censor.