debkafile reports: Early Wednesday, June 2, US president Barack Obama stepped into the fast-deteriorating flotilla crisis to stop it from spinning out of control. In secret phone calls, he asked Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to release all the remaining passengers without delay as well as the six ships. He then tried to reason with the incandescent Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan, who had just branded the Israeli raid a "bloody massacre."
Offering deep condolences for the loss of life aboard the flotilla, the US president said better ways must be found to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel's security. He supported the UN Security Council's call for "a credible, impartial and transparent investigation" of the event, but refused to condemn Israel or take the inquiry out of its hands.
debkafile reports from Ankara that Erdogan declined to be talked round, declaring that if America did not punish Israel for insolently "trampling on human honor", Turkey would.
Overnight, Israel began evacuating diplomats' families from Turkey. Diplomatic and consular staff were left in place in Ankara and Istanbul and told along with security firms to stand by for departure.
Netanyahu called the second security cabinet meeting in two days after the first on Tuesday approved the continued blockade of Gaza against all attempts to break it.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again threatened Israel with destruction for any action it may take anywhere and its Western supporters with international trial as war criminals.
Israel is preparing for Ankara's next steps that would defy President Obama's bid to find a way out of the crisis between the two former allies. In Jerusalem, Erdogan's accusations were deemed an unfounded and unjustified assault considering the evidence that he had consorted with terrorists, including an al Qaeda offshoot, to bring Israel under pressure in support of the Palestinian extremist Hamas.
This evidence released by the IDF Monday night, June 1, described how the Turkish Marmara, the flotilla's lead vessel, had been commandeered by terrorists indirectly supported by the Ankara government's subsidy to the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi – IHH, which is listed by the American CIA as an al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist organization with bases in Turkey, Bosnia and Bulgaria.
Those passengers attested to more than a hundred members of terrorist organizations aboard acting like a quasi-military group with a command hierarchy, whose leader forced the other four or five hundred passengers to fall into line behind them. The group was split into sub-sections, each in charge of a section of the ship before and after it set sail from Istanbul. Its members were all armed with an assortment of chains, iron bars and knives as well as night goggles and gas masks.
Although they appeared to hail from different terrorist organizations from various countries, they were all ordered to say they belonged to the IHH.
The group kept the ship to a strict military regiment, including round-the-clock guards in the different sections of the Marmara.
When the ship was brought to Ashdod port and the passengers removed early Tuesday, the IHH members were found without identification papers of any kind. Either the Turkish authorities at Istanbul were instructed to let them embark aboard the Marmara without documents or they threw them overboard before the ship docked at Ashdod. Each had an envelope stuffed with thousands of dollars.
debkafile's intelligence sources disclose that, when first brought in, the Turkish terror activists refused to answer questions. By Tuesday nightfall, a few began talking and admitted to being members of IHH and its ties with al Qaeda's Balkan outfit. Throughout the interrogations, Israel intelligence was in contact with colleagues in Western services for help to identify them by means of fingerprints and other physical features.
Our counter-terror sources report that Israel must now decide whether to prosecute some of the activists, including Israeli Arabs, on board the Marmara, on charges of collaborating with an international terrorist organization.
During Tuesday, Israel began deporting the 679 passengers – including 128 for Arab and Muslim countries through Jordan. The rest will be flown out within 48 hours. Three Turkish jets were due to collect them Wednesday. Eight Israel trucks brought assistance products from the ships to Gaza Tuesday; another 10 will make deliveries Wednesday.
Israel intelligence agencies too have questions to answer – principally, how they missed spotting the terrorist presence aboard the putative aid-for-Gaza convoy and let a naval force undertake the mission to divert the ships to Ashdod, without preparing them for a violent confrontation with a determined, well-organized group of violent men.