A group of 10 missile-ship captains in the Navy reserve force Sunday, June 6, demanded that the Israeli government and defense forces institute an impartial panel to study the operational, intelligence and tactical failings of the May 31 Israel commando raid of the Turkish Mavi Marmara while on its way to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Their protest coincided with an IDF ban on travel to Turkey for all members of Israel's armed, security and police forces, including reservists, for fear of reprisals or detention.
debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the captains decided to protest when they saw no one in the ministerial security and political cabinet concerned with assigning responsibility for the ways in which the operation was bungled, and focusing entirely on debating whether or not Israel should accept an international commission of inquiry into the incident. In the event, the cabinet rejected the international panel proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and opted for a domestic probe attended by foreign observers.
The angry captains focused on four glaring blunders:
1. The defense minister Ehud Barak's order for the firearms carried by the commandos to be difficult for them to reach severely reduced their ability to defend themselves against attack.
2. The Air Force helicopter landings of commandos on the Turkish ship's deck was supposed to have been synchronized with the boats landing smaller units by sea. But the helicopters arrived 15 minutes late, leaving the smaller unit stranded and few enough to encourage the dozens of armed men aboard to believe they could be overcome and the ship rid of the Israeli interception force.
3. The IDF only used a part of its electronic warfare capabilities for jamming signals to and from the six ships and recording events aboard, including the Israeli takeover.
4. The most fundamental blunder was the persistence of security and intelligence decision-makers in trusting their Turkish counterparts' continued cooperation in the face of the overt hostility of the Ankara government headed by Recep Erdogan. This trust blinded them to the ambush the Turks had rigged aboard the Marmara for the Israeli military.
In their letter to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the protesters, holding the ranks of major and captain, held the defense minister, transport minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy chiefly responsible for allowing the commandos walk into the trap which resulted in 9 Turkish killed and six Israeli soldiers injured. They argue the IDF could have come up with more efficient methods for keeping the flotilla from breaching the Gaza blockade instead of an operation which was a tactical and military fiasco. The failure to assign blame where it belonged amounted to contempt for the IDF's tradition of holding the superior policy-making and command levels to account for failures.
Sunday night, June 6, the IDF released the names of five of the activists aboard the Marmara identified as terrorists or associates of terrorist organizations.
Among those named was Fatima Mohammadi (31) from Iran who lives in the US and is active in the group Viva Palestine. Mahmadi tried to bring banned electronic components into the Gaza Strip for use in fabricating explosive devices; Ken O'Keefe (41) who holds US and British citizenship, was described by the IDF as an "extreme Israel-hating Hamas activist, who aimed to reach Gaza for training and to setting up commando units for Hamas."
Two Turks on the list were Hassan Aynsey (28), a member of a Turkish charity association, a regular funding source of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, which is responsible for many of the Qassam missile attacks on Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip; and Hussein Orush, from the Turkish IHH organization, which is linked to al Qaeda and Hamas. His task was to help al Qaeda operatives reach the Gaza Strip via Turkey.
Ahmed Omemun (51) from Morocco, who also has French citizenship, is a Hamas activist,
according to the IDF.
All the flotilla's activists were deported and sent home by Israel after they were taken off the ships without criminal proceedings at the insistence of the Obama administration.