The Israel Navy commandos who on Monday raided a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid had no choice but to defend themselves against the violent activists, a captain of the elite marines unit who carried out the operation said Tuesday.
"We knew there would be resistance, but not at such an enormous scale," said Captain R., who led one of the teams and was wounded in the mission. "Every [activist] that approached us wanted to kill us."
Captain R. was the second commando to be dropped from a military helicopter onto the Turkish-flagged ship. During the mission, a large mob of the activists hurled him from the upper to lower deck of the ship.
From the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Captain R. said that every commando who entered the ship was met by a number of activists who charged at the soldiers and attacked them. At least 75 percent of the activists took part in what the soldiers later described as a "lynch."
"I was the second to be lowered in by rope," said Captain R. "My comrade who had already been dropped in was surrounded by a bunch of people. It started off as a one-on-one fight, but then more and more people started jumping us. I had to fight against quite a few terrorists who were armed with knives and batons."
The captain said that he was first forced to cock his gun and shoot once when one of the activists came toward him with a knife.
"At that point, another twenty people starting coming at me from every direction," said Captain R. "They jumped at me and hurled me to the deck below the bridge. Then I felt a stabbing in my stomach – it was a knife. I pulled it our and somehow managed to get to the lower level. There, was another mob of people."
The unit had seized control of the ship by that point, save for the lower-most level. "Another soldier and I managed to get out of there and jump into the water."
The commandos had been well-prepared for the mission, said the captain, and had taken into account that the activists might respond with violence. "We thought it would be passive resistance, maybe verbal, but not at such strength," he said.
Despite the tragic results, the captain said he felt his soldiers had operated in a justified fashion. "We worked in an outstanding way, with the values that were instilled in us," he said. "We only turned our weapons against those who put us in danger."
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