Why was Israeli raider force unprepared for violent resistance?
More questions than answers came from the IDF video shots of the violent reception for Israeli naval commandos when they raided the Turkish ship early Monday, May 31 to prevent the pro-Palestinian flotilla from reaching Gaza Port and breaking the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory.
Prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who cancelled his trip to the United States and is flying straight home from Canada, will have to fill in the gaps left by his official spokesmen.
Released finally 12 hours after the event, the IDF shots failed to explain the big mystery of how soldiers armed with paint balls and pistols managed to kill 9 pro-Palestinian activists (Ankara claims 15 Turkish dead) and injure at least 34 aboard the Turkish Marmora.
Together with six injured soldiers – two in critical condition – the wounded activists are being treated in Israeli hospitals.
Israel's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, and Navy commander, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, reported that a fierce clash developed aboard the ship as the soldiers dropped on deck from helicopters and were mobbed by passengers. The activists fired pistols, but it is not clear if the guns were in the peace activists' luggage or snatched from the soldiers.
Neither is it clear how civilian protesters were able to disarm elite fighters of the Navy's Shayetet 6 unit.
The soldiers performed their mission of preventing the flotilla from docking in Gaza Port and opening the door to large-scale weapons deliveries – but at what cost?
Surely the operation's planners must have taken into account that the 600 mixed nationals aboard the Turkish vessel, the hard core of international Palestinian agitprop against Israel, would not receive the soldiers with flowers and white flags, any more than the demonstrators at Iblin and Naalin hand out to the Israeli Border Police breaking up their riots week after week.
The Border Police was bettered qualified to handle themselves against the arsenal the activists aboard the Turkish vessel used against the navy men, of firebombs, stun grenades, broken glass, slingshot, iron bars, axes and knives – and with far less risk of loss of life.
Also underestimated was the number of troops needed to commandeer the Turkish ship, control the wheelhouse and turn it round to Ashdod port. Each commando who shinnied down the ladder from a helicopter was besieged and separated from the unit, then beaten, stabbed and assaulted with flying objects. Some were pushed down into the hold and stripped of their anti-flak vests first. The soldiers reported they barely escaped lynching or possibly being taken hostage.
Any Israeli police officer dealing with Palestinian rioters knows that the first rule is never to get separated from the main force. The Shayatet 6 elite troops lacked this experience.
This error was compounded by the planners seriously underestimating expected resistance and sending the men in armed only with paintballs and pistols with orders to shoot only if their lives were at risk. They did open fire, but only after half a dozen of their number were badly hurt.
The entire episode bespeaks faulty intelligence on what was going on aboard the six vessels bound for Gaza, although the information was available from daily live broadcasts and easy access to visitors.
And another question: The IDF is famous for its innovative electronic warfare capabilities. So why were the signals and images coming from the convoy not jammed as promised and allowed to reach world TV screens hours before the authorities responsible for Israeli information woke up?
And finally, why did the interception take place 80 miles out to sea in international waters, thereby fueling the complaint that Israel broke international law? The blockade zone is 20 nautical miles deep from Gaza. An Israeli raid at that limit would have been easier to justify.