Thursday, September 01, 2011

Palmer Report: On the Mavi Marmara

More from The Palmer Report:

It is clear to the Panel that preparations were made by some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara well in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt. The description given in the Israeli report is consistent with passenger testimonies to the Turkish investigation that describe cutting iron bars from the guard rails of the ship, opening fire hoses, donning life or bullet proof vests and gas masks, and assuming preagreed positions in anticipation of an attack. Witness reports also describe doctors and medical personnel coordinating before the boarding in anticipation of casualties. Furthermore, video footage shows passengers wearing gas masks, life or bullet proof vests, and carrying metal bars, slingshots, chains and staves. That information supports the accounts of violence given by IDF personnel to the Israeli investigation.

The Panel accepts, therefore, that soldiers landing from the first helicopter faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they descended onto the Mavi Marmara. Material before the Panel confirms that this group was armed with iron bars, staves, chains, and slingshots, and there is some indication that they also used knives. Firearms were taken from IDF personnel and passengers disabled at least one by removing the ammunition from it. Two soldiers received gunshot wounds. There is some reason to believe that they may have been shot by passengers, although the Panel is not able to conclusively establish how the gunshot wounds were caused. Nevertheless, seven other soldiers were wounded by passengers, some seriously.

Both reports concur that three soldiers were overpowered by the passengers as they descended from the first helicopter and were taken below the deck of the vessel.The Panel is not persuaded that claims that the three were taken below merely to receive medical assistance are plausible, although it accepts that once below deck other passengers intervened to protect them and ensure that assistance was provided. It is established to the Panel’s satisfaction that the three soldiers in question were captured, mistreated and placed at risk during the incident. In the face of such a response, the IDF personnel involved in the operation needed to take action for their own protection and that of the other soldiers.