Counter-Terrorism: Avoiding The Snatch


May 3, 2009: In Israel, the problem of kidnapping is even worse than in other nations,  because Islamic militants have long sought to take individual soldiers in order to use them as bargaining chips for releasing jailed terrorists. This is somewhat in contrast to other Islamic groups, like those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It's well-known that the Taliban routinely kidnaps people, but they often have different objectives in mind than Hamas or Hezbollah. People kidnapped by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are just as likely to be beheaded on camera, forced to join the insurgents (if they are locals), or ransomed for funds, as they are to be held in exchange for political concessions or the release of prisoners. Different groups develop different goals and modus operandi in their kidnapping activities.   

Palestinian terrorists, however, typically try to gain some kind of political advantages from their hostages instead of just killing them outright, or asking for a ransom.   The reason for this is obvious: they don’t need the money, because Iran is funding both Hamas and Hezbollah. In March, Hamas openly declared their intention to kidnap more Israeli soldiers, and use them to secure the release of Hamas prisoners. In places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, kidnappings often occur either for monetary ransom, (to raise more terror funds) as they do in other parts of the world, or are immediately killed with no intention of attempting to use the hostages as political leverage. 

This is a major headache because, for one thing, Israel has a small population of only seven million. On top of that, almost all males are either active military or in the country’s vast reserve forces, meaning that one kidnapped soldier affects the lives many people, including family and friends. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) repeatedly tells its soldiers to do everything possible to avoid becoming the victim of a kidnapping and many attempts are thwarted, but it still remains a problem and a major threat. The potential for being captured increases exponentially when troops are engaged in close-quarter battle in built-up areas

The Israelis are now trying to counter the threat of kidnapping using robots. Several new devices are being unveiled that the military is hoping will reduce the threat and, even better, lead rescue forces to safe houses if a snatch does occur. One such device is called the Eyeball, a rubber ball about the size of a tennis ball that is equipped with a miniature microphone and video recording camera. 

The idea is that soldiers can throw the device behinds walls or into buildings during urban operations to see what is inside or behind them without having to physically check the area out themselves. By doing that, the soldier stays close to the rest of his squad or platoon and reduces the risk of being cut off or captured during an urban combat operation. The Israel military spends a great deal of its time worrying about its soldiers being captured by terrorists in the middle of confusing city fighting in places like Gaza where, like all cities, getting lost or cut off performing missions is not a difficult thing to do. 

Israel also worries about potentially valuable information falling into the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah should IDF officers become prisoners. Thus the standing orders to fire upon any vehicles that contain terrorists kidnappers, even if a captured soldier is aboard. The directive is named the Hannibal order, and it's been around for awhile.

The 2006 war in Lebanon, and the recent battle in Gaza, were both fought to recover kidnapped Israeli soldiers. The continued attempts by Islamic terrorists to enter into Israeli territory on snatch operations has re-ignited public debate over the ethical implications of the standing order. Some Israelis think the order is order justified in order to prevent military information from falling into the hands of terrorists. In a country where even one military casualty hits home hard, others think the order is inhumane and want it rescinded.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close