IDF Blames Intelligence for Gaza Flotilla 'Mistakes', but Defends Use of Commandos

First Israeli probe of deadly May 31 raid, led by Maj. Gen. Eiland, cites intelligence failures but does not single out any officers for rebuke.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

The Israel Defense Force committee investigating the navy's deadly raid on a Turkish-flagged aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip found the incident to be the consequence of failed intelligence and a lack of proper preparation for the operation, according to its report released on Monday.

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in the May 31 raid after they used clubs and knives to attack Israel Navy commandos boarding the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara. Israel had previously warned that it would take over the ships to enforce its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel Navy forces approaching the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza, May 31, 2010.Credit: Reuters

The committee led by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland, however, characterized the failures made at the planning level as "mistakes," rather than as negligence or fault. The report also found that the navy would have had no means to stop the ship at sea without endangering the vessel, and thus backed the decision to carry out a commando operation.

The committee said in its report that the navy had failed to sufficiently consider the possibility that the commandos would encounter violent resistance when attempting to keep the ships out of Gaza.

It also criticized the navy for not cooperating sufficiently with the Mossad in gathering information ahead of the flotilla's arrival and to discuss the process by which the raid was approved.

The report did not, however, call for disciplinary action against particular officers.

"To my relief, the investigation found no negligence or failures on any significant matters, and that it was due to mistakes made at the relatively top levels that caused the results to be different from what was planned," Eiland said.

He also said that some aspects of the operation could be "praised," particularly the way the Shayetet 13 commandos acted during the operation and the quick and efficient evacuation of casualties.

Eiland's is the first to complete its investigation. The Turkel Committee, appointed by the government to examine whether the raid adhered to international law, has just begun its investigation. A team from the State Comptroller's Office will be beginning its own probe of the flotilla raid shortly.
Meanwhile, the High Court of Justice on Monday opened the door to expanding the authority of the Turkel Commission.

The five-member panel was was appointed by the cabinet in June to investigate the naval raid - which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Mavi Marmara - and its adherence to international law.

The panel currently has a limited mandate. It is only supposed to determine whether Israel's efforts to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza accorded with international law, and whether the soldiers' use of force was proportionate. It has no power to subpoena witnesses and cannot draw personal conclusions against those involved in the raid.

Turkel, however, wants to turn it into a full-fledged governmental inquiry committee with real teeth. That would allow it to subpoena witnesses and documents, warn those who testify before it that the panel's findings could harm them, and hire outside experts in relevant fields.

At the hearing Monday to address a petition against the committee's limited authority, the justices said the court would consider widening the panel's mandate if its members seek to probe persons or events outside of their jurisdiction, including Israel Defense Forces soldiers.



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