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June 1, 2010

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Navy Commandos: "Ship Activists Came for War" - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    After several hours of radio communications and warnings that the Mavi Marmara would be boarded if the captain did not change his ship's course, at 4 a.m. Monday, Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom gave the order to board the ship.
    "As the 15 of us slid down the ropes, 30 of them were waiting for us on the deck," one of the commandos later said.
    "They charged us and threw a few of the soldiers off the deck to the floor below."
    The soldiers "engaged in hand-to-hand combat, sustained injuries, but only opened fire after one of them was lying on the ground unconscious and two others had been shot.
    This was an unbelievable demonstration of restraint," said one police source.
    See also IDF Soldier Describes Attack by Mob - Amnon Ben-Dror (Israel Defense Forces)
    "Each soldier who descended was taken by three or four men and they simply exploded, beating him up. They lynched us. They had metal clubs, knives, slingshots, glass bottles....At one point there was also live fire."
    "I was among the last to descend, and I saw that the group was dispersed, everyone in his own corner surrounded by 3 or 4 men, I saw a soldier on the floor with two men beating him. I peeled them off of him and they came at me and began beating me with the clubs. That's how I broke my arm. At that moment I had no weapon in my hands, like everyone else who descended on the cables empty-handed. My paintball gun was behind me."
    "They came and attacked me, I brought them down to the floor, I took a few steps back, I took out my paintball gun, they came at me, and I shot at their legs. One of the clubs destroyed my paint gun."
    "From the opening of the corridor, they were shooting at us the entire time with live fire....We did not come with the weapons we usually have, we came for something entirely different."
    View the Video (Israel Defense Forces)
    See also Video: Flotilla Activists Attacking Israel Navy Soldiers - 1 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Video: Flotilla Activists Attacking Israel Navy Soldiers - 2 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Video: Weapons Used Against IDF Soldiers (Israel Defense Forces)

The Seizure of the Gaza Flotilla (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    The attack on the Israeli soldiers was premeditated. The weapons used had been prepared in advance.
    The head of the Turkish IHH group responsible for the Mavi Marmara, Bulent Yildirim, told Turkish NTV television on Sunday: "If Israel wants to board this ship, it will meet strong resistance."

Gaza Flotilla Participants Chanted War Cries - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    On the day before the Gaza flotilla confronted the Israeli navy, Al-Jazeera TV documented the pre-battle atmosphere as men on board the flotilla chanted the Islamic battle cry:
    "[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!" Khaibar was the last Jewish village in Arabia defeated by Muhammad's army in 628.
    See also Gaza Flotilla Activists Chant Songs of Martyrdom (MEMRI)

Israel Says Free Gaza Movement Poses Threat - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
    Once viewed only as a political nuisance by Israel's government, the group behind the Gaza aid flotilla now includes Islamist organizations that Israeli intelligence agencies say pose a security threat to the Jewish state.
    The ship that Israeli forces stormed Monday was operated by a Turkish charity that Israeli intelligence agencies and others contend has connections to radical Islamist groups.
    Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, said there was a "qualitative change" to this Gaza aid mission compared with earlier ones that Israel's navy had let pass.
    He said the group on the Mavi Marmara vessel was "a front for a radical Islamist organization, probably with links to the ruling party in Turkey."

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  • Special Report: A Brutal Ambush at Sea - Ron Ben-Yishai
    A few minutes before the takeover attempt aboard the Mari Marmara got underway, the operation commander was told that 20 people were waiting on the deck where a helicopter was to deploy the first team of Navy commandos. Officials estimated that passengers will show slight resistance, and possibly minor violence. The first rope that soldiers used in order to descend down to the ship was wrested away by activists, most of them Turks. Navy commandos slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, [knives] and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
        However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests. One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows. The commandos were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other "don't shoot, don't shoot," even though they sustained numerous blows.
        The Navy commandos were prepared to mostly encounter political activists seeking to hold a protest, rather than trained street fighters. The soldiers were told they were to verbally convince activists who offer resistance to give up, and only then use paintballs. They were permitted to use their handguns only under extreme circumstances.
        At one point, the attackers nabbed one commando, wrested away his handgun, and threw him down from the top deck to the lower deck, 30 feet below. The soldier sustained a serious head wound and lost consciousness. Only after this injury did troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters' legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back. "I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell," one commando said. "He fired at us and we fired back. We didn't see if we hit him."
        It appears that the error in planning the operation was the estimate that the passengers were indeed political activists and members of humanitarian groups who seek a political provocation but would not resort to brutal violence. (Ynet News)
  • UN Security Council Calls for Investigation of Israeli Flotilla Raid - Edith M. Lederer
    The UN Security Council called Tuesday for an "impartial" investigation of Israel's commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to Gaza and condemned the "acts" that resulted in the loss of at least nine lives. The UN statement, which was weaker than what was initially demanded by the Arabs and Turkey because of objections by the U.S., called for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards." It condemned "those acts" that resulted in deaths, without naming Israel. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he doubted the potential "objectivity" and independence of any UN-sponsored investigation. "Considering the countries that support this option, we have every reason to fear for its independence."
        U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said: "The secretary-general called for a full investigation, and we believe the Israelis are capable of conducting a full investigation." Organizers of the flotilla said they would be sending two more ships to challenge the Gaza blockade within the next few days. (AP)
  • Flotilla Incident Complicates Relations with U.S. - Glenn Kessler
    The timing of the flotilla incident is bad for Israel and the U.S. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama were scheduled to meet Tuesday in Washington as part of a "kiss and make up" session. Now the White House talks have been scrubbed. In contrast with forceful statements from European, Arab and UN officials, the White House said Monday that Obama had held a phone conversation with Netanyahu in which the prime minister expressed "deep regret at the loss of life" and "the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events."
        The State Department issued a statement saying the U.S. remains "deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza" and "will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza."  (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. on Israel: "We're the Only Ones Who Believe Them" - Ben Smith
    With much of the world expressing fury over the Israeli raid, the contrast with Washington's muted response could not have been more striking. "It's not only that we're the only ones who will stick up for them," said an American official. "We're the only ones who believe them - and what they're saying is true." The official was referring to Israeli protestations - backed by Israel Defense Forces video - that their solders were attacked by passengers on a ship headed for Gaza. The White House avoided any hint of criticism of the Israeli action in its public statements, and American officials appeared sympathetic to Israeli explanations that their soldiers were attacked by flotilla participants. (Politico)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Gaza Flotilla Docks in Ashdod - Liel Kyzer and Yair Ettinger
    The Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara was the last of the six-ship flotilla to be towed into Ashdod port on Monday, and its 600 passengers were kept on board while Israel Police sappers conducted a thorough examination of the vessel. Nine activists aboard the ship were killed and several more wounded in clashes with Israel Navy troops Monday morning. Eight Israeli soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously. Israel has said it will deport the 700 activists in the flotilla. But those who refuse to cooperate will be jailed. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Maritime Blockade of Gaza - Legal Background
    Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The U.S. Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.
        The protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law. Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Is Israel Supposed to Stop Hamas from Re-arming? - Editorial
    Israel is once again at the receiving end of broad international condemnation after its naval commandos boarded a flotilla of ships headed for Gaza on Monday. Before this chorus of indignation grows louder, it might be worth asking whether Israel had any other choice except to act as it did. The flotilla was organized by a radical Turkish group with close ties to Hamas, the terrorist group that illegally seized power in Gaza in 2007. Since then, both Israel and Egypt have imposed a partial blockade, mainly to prevent Hamas from arming itself with the kinds of weapons it used to spark a war with Israel in December 2008. Food, medicine and electricity continue to flow to Gaza.
        The Gaza war also elicited international protests against Israel, which time and again is told what it can do in its own self-defense, with its critics deeming nearly every effective military action "disproportionate."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Flotilla Fiasco - Editorial
    The Israeli commandos who landed on the deck of the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara were totally unprepared for what they encountered: dozens of militants who swarmed around them with knives and iron bars. We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla - a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation.
        The White House has been properly cautious so far in responding to the incident; it should be careful to distinguish itself in the coming days from the anti-Israeli chorus. U.S. diplomacy should aim at ensuring that the inevitable calls for an international investigation do not lead to another one-sided setup like the UN's Goldstone commission, whose report on Israel's 2008 invasion of Gaza has become another weapon in the international campaign to de-legitimize the Jewish state. (Washington Post)
  • Another Rush to Judgment - Alan Dershowitz
    Let there be no mistake about the goal of the flotilla. It was not to provide aid to Gaza. The leaders of the flotilla rejected an Israeli offer to send the food and medical supplies to Gaza through the Israeli port of Ashdod. They wanted a military confrontation with casualties.
        Israel's actions were not illegal under international law. The blockade of Gaza, a terrorist enclave that has engaged in repeated acts of armed aggression against Israeli civilians, is supported by Egypt and other nations. Although the flotilla was boarded in international waters, the intent to enter Gaza was clear and undisputed. A sovereign nation need not wait until the line is unlawfully crossed when the intruders have made known their determination to cross the line. The United States and other Western countries have boarded ships in international waters over the years to enforce blockades and to protect security. When Israeli marines were attacked by lethal weapons, they had the absolute right to defend themselves and protect their fellow soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Another Baseless Accusation of an Israeli "Massacre" - Jonathan Kay
    If Israel truly had wanted to "massacre" the Hamas sympathizers and fellow travelers aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla, the operation would not have been complicated. The Israel Defense Forces would have used the trusty North Korean solution: Torpedo the ships and watch them sink to the bottom of the sea.
        But that's not how Israel operates. Israeli officials even prepared air-conditioned accommodations for the activists, and made arrangements to deliver legitimate aid supplies to Gaza. Every drop of blood spilled on Monday rests on the hands of those activists who initiated the deadly exchange. When you attack Israeli soldiers - or any soldiers - with lethal force, they will respond in kind.
        For most of the world, of course, these facts won't matter. This episode will be used as just another stick to beat the Jewish state - even by those same pundits and activists who can't be roused to say a single word when genuine "massacres" unfold in other parts of the world. (National Post-Canada)
  • Peace Convoy? This Was an Islamist Terror Ambush - Melanie Phillips
    It is becoming ever more clear that Islamist terror attacks like this are fiendishly staged theatrical events in which the Western media - and beyond them, Western governments - play an absolutely essential role in the drama. If those media and governments refused to swallow the lies and instead called operations like this and the players behind it for what they actually are, such terrorist operations would not happen. The Islamist strategy of war against Israel is carefully calibrated to deploy the most effective weapon in its armory in the cause of jihadi violence - the Western media. Right on cue, Western governments accordingly deliver their own script in condemning the victims of terror for defending themselves. And so, courtesy of the West's fifth columnists, yet another nail is driven into the West's own coffin. (Spectator-UK)
  • Observations:

    Israel to UN: Flotilla Participants Not Peace Activists - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)

    The deputy head of Israel's mission to the United Nations, Dan Carmon, told the UN Security Council Monday:

    • "Although portrayed in the media as a humanitarian mission delivering aid to Gaza, this flotilla was not a humanitarian mission. If indeed it were a humanitarian mission it would have accepted, weeks ago, during the planning stages, the offer by the Israeli authorities to transfer the aid through the port of Ashdod to Gaza through the existing overland crossing, in accordance with established procedures. Many states and organizations, including the UN, are using those mechanisms on a daily basis."
    • "What kind of humanitarian activists demand to bypass the UN, the Red Cross, and other internationally recognized agencies? What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law? What kind of humanitarian activists, some with known terrorist history, embrace Hamas, a terrorist organization that openly shuns a two-state solution and calls for Israel destruction, defying conditions set by the international community and the Quartet? The answer is clear: they are not peace activists; they are not messengers of good will. They cynically use a humanitarian platform to send a message of hate and to implement violence."
    • "Let me remind the Council that a state of armed conflict exists between Israel and the Hamas terrorist regime controlling Gaza. Let me remind the Council that rockets and mortars are still being launched by Hamas and others toward southern Israel. Let me remind the Council that Gaza is occupied by terrorists that ousted the PA in a violent coup, and that arms are continuously being smuggled, including by sea. Let me stress that a maritime blockade is a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea."

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