.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

IDF Chief of Staff: IHH shot first

From the New York Times:
Israel’s top military chief said Wednesday that activists on a Turkish ship were the first to open fire as Israeli naval commandos raided the vessel, part of a six-boat flotilla bound for Gaza, fomenting a bloody confrontation on board that left nine activists dead.

Testifying before an Israeli commission of inquiry, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli Army chief of staff, gave the most detailed description yet of the military’s version of the events in late May.

General Ashkenazi said that mistakes had been made. The main one, he said, was that the soldiers, who rappelled onto the ship from a helicopter one by one, lacked the manpower to create a sterile area quickly enough. They were immediately set upon by the activists, some wielding axes, knives, iron bars and clubs, he said.

Though stun grenades were fired first, from the air, they failed to disperse the dozen or so activists on the roof of the boat. What was lacking, according to the army chief, was preparation for the use of “precise fire,” by which he appeared to mean snipers, “to neutralize those preventing the soldiers from boarding the boat.”

The army chief staunchly defended the actions of his soldiers. He said that they had displayed “cool-headedness, courage and morality,” opening fire only when necessary, and that the Israeli use of force was proportionate.

According to the general, the second soldier who fast-roped onto the roof of the boat, the Mavi Marmara, was shot in the abdomen and fired back. Activists who were on board have given very different accounts, saying the soldiers opened fire as soon as they came on board, or even before.

An Israeli military investigation of the episode concluded a month ago that Israeli soldiers most likely fired only after having been fired upon. A video in two separate parts, produced by the army and shown to the commission, stated that the shot fired at the second soldier was “probably” the first shot fired on the ship.

But General Ashkenazi said it was “clear and established” that flotilla participants opened fire first.

The weapon used may have been snatched from the first soldier who landed on the ship.

A gun belonging to one of the soldiers was later found on board, empty of bullets. In addition, the military said it found ammunition, cartridges and bullets that were not from the Israeli Army, suggesting that there might have been at least one other gun on the ship. According to the general, the boat’s captain told the Israelis that it might have been thrown overboard.

General Ashkenazi stated that the army had prepared for the possibility that the activists could open fire, though the military “did not assess correctly the strength of the resistance” the commandos would meet when they came down the rope. According to the video, soldiers trying to approach the Mavi Marmara on rubber lifeboats said they were fired on from both sides of the ship. As clashes broke out on the boat, commandos fired at the feet of their “attackers.”

When the commandos met resistance as they tried to rush the bridge, they responded with fire. And at one point, at least 15 minutes into the struggle for control of the ship, the force commander allowed the soldiers to use accurate and precise live fire against violent activists, to permit more soldiers to climb aboard from the lifeboats.
The stun grenades from the helicopter, which I hadn't heard of before, would explain why the passengers thought that the IDF was shooting at them from the air.

Of course, the "activists" have no problem telling their lies to the world. Here's their graphic of the events, from the Free Gaza page:
Somehow, they must have forgotten to draw their prepared axes, knives, clubs, chains and slingshots. Must have been an oversight.