An Israeli eyewitness said that during Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, the army surrounded a house containing members of the Palestinian group and Israelis and later opened fire with tank rounds, killing all of them.
It appeared to be the latest implementation of the Hannibal Protocol, which involves the killing of enemy-held captives to prevent Israeli civilians from being taken to Gaza as hostages.
Israeli media reported earlier this month that a 12-year-old girl, Liel Hetzroni, was killed in the October 7 attack by Hamas on Kibbutz Be’eri.
According to the reports, following Liel’s killing, her grandfather Avia, twin brother Yanai and aunt Ayala were taken to another location, where they were killed along with more than 10 other hostages and then Hamas allegedly set fire to the building.
Israeli authorities said it took two weeks for Yanai to be identified through DNA, while Liel, whose body was burned beyond recognition, was identified after six weeks.
‘Civilians were in the house’
Yasmin Porat, who was in the house where the twins were held hostage, shared details about the day of the incident in a radio interview with Israeli public broadcaster KAN on Nov. 15.
Porat said the house where she was with Hamas fighters was surrounded by Israeli forces, that there were fierce clashes between the parties, and that after a while one of the Hamas fighters decided to surrender and went out with her.
She said Israeli forces interrogated her and the Hamas member, and that during her interrogation, which lasted three hours, she informed them about the number of civilians that were in the house, where the civilians were being kept and the technical details she remembered about the house.
Porat noted that the clashes continued during the interrogation and said a tank arrived in front of the house around 7.30 p.m. local time after about four hours of crossfire between the Israeli army and Hamas fighters.
“I thought, 'Why are they shooting at the house with a tank?' I asked the people with me, 'Why are they shooting?' They told me, 'They are shooting to demolish the walls to help clear the house of (Hamas),'" she said.
Israeli girl 'stopped screaming when those 2 rounds came'
"I know that there were two rounds fired from the tank," Porat said, adding she drew the same conclusion from what Hadas Dagan, the other survivor of the incident and owner of the house where they were held hostage, told her.
Porat said Dagan told her that Liel was alive until the two big explosions that occurred after the tank arrived.
“The owner of the house told me that she didn't stop screaming all those hours. I said, 'I remember. I was there for the first hour, and she didn't stop screaming.' Then he said to me, 'Yasmin, she stopped screaming when those two shots came. Then there was silence.'”
“After that very big incident, after two tanks fired, almost everybody died. At least that's what I understood from my conversation with Hadas,” she added.
Porat said that she saw part of the house on fire in the photographs after the incident and said of Liel's death, "If you ask me, I'm guessing based on what happened in other houses, she was apparently completely burnt."
Israeli fighter pilot's revelation
A pilot with the Israeli armed forces said the military implemented the Hannibal Protocol during the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
Reports in Israeli media about the high number of civilian casualties during Hamas's cross-border assault and Israeli military helicopters shooting both Palestinian fighters and civilians at a music festival near Gaza have led to debates on whether the army applied the Hannibal Protocol.
In an interview with Israel’s Haaretz daily, Lieut. Col. Nof Erez drew attention to the possibility that Israeli forces responding to Hamas's attack might have implemented the directive.
According to Erez, the Hannibal Protocol, which Israel is believed to have suspended in 2016, was formulated by the Israeli army 30 years ago based on events in Lebanon.
"The Hannibal Protocol is intentional, and if the decision was made to implement it, it is carried out intentionally. If the captives were unintentionally shot, that's another matter," he said on the October 7 attack, when Hamas fighters infiltrated areas surrounding Gaza, including a music festival near the settlement of Re'im.
Erez said that on that day, it is unknown whether Israeli warplanes and drones hit hostages while firing.
"The Hannibal Protocol, for which we have been running drills for the past 20 years, concerns a single vehicle with hostages in it. You know which part of the fence it goes through, which way on the road it heads to, and even which route it takes," he said.
"What we’ve seen here is a mass Hannibal. There were many gaps in the fences. There were thousands of people in many different vehicles, both with and without hostages," he added.
Erez, who coordinated a helicopter mission to evacuate wounded during Israel's ongoing attacks on Gaza, said: "It was an impossible task to identify and do what was allowed."
"I know that whoever held the weapons systems, both the drones and the fighter pilots, did whatever they could without coordinating with the ground forces because these forces were not yet there."
Erez was reportedly dismissed from duty on October 31 after criticising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A military spokesperson said he was removed after expressing himself on "political matters" while actively serving.
Israeli press reports
Citing police sources, Haaretz reported on Sunday that an Israeli helicopter also shot Israeli revelers at the festival while responding to the Hamas attack.
In the assessment of senior Israeli security officials based on interrogation records of Hamas members and a police investigation into the incident, it was stated that Hamas did not have prior knowledge of the music festival, where 364 people were killed.
The report included infor mation from the police investigation, saying that most of the festival attendees managed to escape because the party was stopped half an hour before the first guns were fired.
Another Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, also reported on the military's aerial response to the Hamas attack on the festival.
"The infiltrating forces (of Hamas) were instructed to march slowly towards the settlements and army stations, and inside them, and not to run under any circumstances, to make the pilots think they are Israelis. The deception worked for a little while, until the Apache pilots under stood they needed to sidestep their restrictions.”
When the pilots realised it was "difficult to distinguish" between Hamas fighters and Israelis, some decided independently at around 9 a.m. to use artillery against the fighters "without obtaining permission from their superiors," said the Hebrew-language daily.