IDF General: 'No Justification for Gaza Aid Flotilla'

IDF Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot tells Turkel Committee that Gazans have the goods needed to maintain basic lifestyle; says flotilla was intended to strengthen Hamas, not Gaza residents.

"There was no justification for the flotilla, because there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot told the Turkel Committee on Tuesday.

Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, told the committee that Gazans have all the goods necessary to maintain a basic lifestyle.

"There isn't hunger in Gaza, now or in the past," he said.

Alon Ron

Dangot said that during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in December 2008, the IDF detected the potential for a flour shortage and acted in coordination with international organizations to prevent a shortage.

According to Dangot, even during periods when, at the request of international organizations, Israel increased the number of trucks allowed to enter Gaza, there was no significant increase in food entering the coastal enclave which is controlled by Hamas.

Dangot said that the aid flotilla which was intercepted by the IDF in May was unnecessary because "those who wanted to help the population of Gaza were invited to deliver supplies via land, as it was always possible to do."

According to Dangot, the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which nine Turkish activists were killed during clashes with Israeli naval commandos, did not bring any humanitarian equipment. Also, he said, the equipment brought by the other ships of the flotilla "was organized amateurishly and any port in the world would not have been ready to unload it."

Dangot told the committee that ten days before the flotilla, he met with the Turkish ambassador in Israel and suggested to him that the aid be delivered to Ashdod, where it could be speedily transferred to Gaza. Dangot said that under this proposal, Israel would have allowed the entry to Gaza of cement and other building materials, which had been limited to that point.

Dangot said that the flotilla was "intended to strengthen the Hamas terror entity and not to aid the citizens of Gaza."

Dangot remarked that, in the months before the flotilla, Israel detected an economic crisis within Hamas in Gaza. The crisis was mainly to due Hamas' difficulties in bringing money into Gaza, due to Egypt's efforts to halt smuggling activities.

Among other things, Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing and took actions against the smuggling tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. Egypt even confiscated cash that senior Hamas leaders tried to bring into Gaza.

According to Dangot, illegally smuggled cash constituted 90 percent of Hamas' income.