The captain and first mate of the Mavi Marmara, the ship which led the Gaza flotilla raided by Israel Defense Forces special forces last week, had attempted to prevent premeditated violent clashes between activists and the Israeli military, evidence released Friday showed.
Late last month, Israeli commandos rappelled onto the deck of one of the ships trying to break Israel's three-year-old blockade of Gaza. The soldiers were intercepted by a crowd of activists, setting off a clash that killed nine men - eight Turks and a Turkish American.
Israel says its soldiers began shooting only after a mob of pro-Palestinian activists attacked them - a version backed up by video footage released by the army. But the activists and their supporters say Israeli commandos needlessly opened fire.
According to the clip, released by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the ship's captain Mehmut Tuval had attempted to prevent a violent altercation by disposing of metal bars and chains IHH activists had cut ahead of the IDF takeover.
Mehmut said that "once we see that the boats [were] around us…actually not us, but around the total ships…about two hours [before the takeover]… I see they were cutting the steels…chains. And I said to the chief officer, he collected all of them and also we put it in the radio room in the bridge."
The captain also indicated that he had thrown some of the bars and chains into the sea, while adding that he also asked IHH activists to pass over the bars and chains that had collected later on.
Tuval said he sent his chief officer to ask for the bars, "saying …he cannot take directly from the guys..he spoke with the IHH to collect the [steel bars and chains]…we asked them to drop them, drop in the sea, because if they take it from the bridge that's when we have a problem…and [after that] we didn't see any in their hands."
The Mavi Marmara captain said he was indeed worried that the presence of the makeshift weapons would worsen the situations, adding he thought that nothing would eventually happen since the IHH commanders were at hand to prevent any violence.
"I was worried but if their [leader] on the ship that there would be no effect, nobody will fight… I said many of times because I know the end," Tuval told investigators, adding that he thought that nothing would happen since there were civilians on the ship/
"I worried [that's] why I collected the things to the bridge and I take how many I see in their hands and I drop them in the sea."
Asked whether or not he knew if the IHH activists were preparing a violent welcome to the IDF takeover, Tuval said that "they were preparing to violence against the soldiers: Yeah from what I was informed."
The ship's first officer, Gokkiran Gokhan, told his investigators that he was sent by the ship's captain to look into an unusual commotion near the life-boat section of the Mavi Marmara.
Once he got there, Gokhan had noticed that bars and chains had been cut off by IHH activists from the deck using rotary saws, which he claims were no part of the ship's equipment.
Asked whose equipment were they, the first officer said: "I don't know, not the ship's. There is no such equipment on the ship. The deck has rods with hooks for chains, and when I got there the rods had been cut."
Gokhan added that this had happened after dark, and when he had asked one of the activists who had cut the rods, he answered that he didn't know. The first officer also said that the IHH activists did not allow anyone but members of their group to pass through their section of the ship.
When asked how the IHH activists communicated with each other, Gokhan told his investigators that "they brought walkie-talkies along with them when they got on board in Istanbul. The radios were distributed to the IHH people and to the ship's crew."
The first mate added that other non-IHH passengers were allowed to move freely, with the exception of the control center which was located above the ship's bridge, saying that the IHH group was made up of 40 people who boarded the ship in Istanbul.
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