debkafile's military sources report Israeli concerns that Turkey may not confine itself to strong diplomatic retaliation for the Israel Navy's seizure Monday, May 31, of the Marmora, the Turkish vessel leading the flotilla for breaking the Gaza blockade and resort to military action along with the Iranian-backed Hizballah and Hamas. A statement from Ankara threatened "unprecedented and incalculable" reprisals, following which the Turkish chief of staff Gen. Ilker Basbug was recalled urgently to Ankara from a visit to Egypt. Greece has since halted its joint exercise with Israel in protest against the naval action.
debkafile reports from Ankara that the Turkish government is planning to continue pounding the Israeli blockade with more flotillas and have them escorted by Turkish warships and fighter jets. Israel merchant vessels moored outside Ashdod port have been instructed to sail into port and take shelter in case of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Monday morning, Israeli warplanes headed west over the Mediterranean in support of the still ongoing Israeli commando operation aboard the Turkish Marmora, the scene of violent clashes between Israeli troops and the 600 "peace activists," some of them armed. Ankara later reported 15 dead aboard the vessel.
Israeli army spokesman, Col. Avi Beneyahu, called the incident "an act of terror on the high seas." Far from being a humanitarian mission, the flotilla was sponsored personally by Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and permit arms supplies and terrorists to reach the Strip unrestricted. It aimed at provoking a widely publicized international incident with fatalities and showing Israel using strong-arm tactics against unarmed peace-lovers.
Its leaders and the nations involved therefore refused to heed warnings that the vessels would be prevented from entering Gaza Port and rejected Israeli offers to ferry their aid cargo overland to the Gaza Strip. Population within missile range of Gaza advised to take shelter in secured areas.
Nine activists were killed battling with Israeli troops, and dozens injured. Ten Israeli soldiers were wounded, two critically. They were all ferried to Israeli hospitals by helicopter.
The pro-Hamas passengers were described as mobbing the Israeli commandos as they were dropped onto the Marmara's deck, using knives and iron bars to beat them and shooting with a sidearm snatched from a soldier and at least two other pistols recovered empty from two of the bodies.
Israeli security forces are preparing for the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas to go back to shooting missiles and rockets against Israeli towns, in support of the seaborne attack on Israeli commandos. The police are also on special alert in and around Israeli Arab communities, after Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called them out on a general strike, and the Holy Places, especially in Jerusalem.
Egypt will face pressure to end its joint embargo on Gaza with Israel at the Arab League Council meeting urgently Tuesday, June 1. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded the session.
Demonstrations against Israel were staged in Syrian and Lebanese towns. Jordan hands stiff complaint to head of Israeli diplomatic mission in Amman.