Israeli troops avoided the use of non-lethal riot gear against passengers on last week's Gaza-bound flotilla in order to appease United States President Barack Obama, according to the World Tribune. Quoting “diplomatic sources,” the paper said Obama nixed the use of equipment such as tear gas to stop the flotilla and demanded that Israel “exercise extreme caution and restraint.”
The White House has not commented on the report.
The report claimed that Defense Minister Ehud Barak accepted Obama's demand, possibly due to his hopes that America will agree to sell advanced weapons to Israel.
It says that the American demand was made despite Israeli intelligence reports indicating possible danger aboard one ship, the Mavi Marmara, which carried primarily Turkish citizens, many of them members of the pro-terrorist IHH organization. Intelligence agents had found that many of the Turkish passengers were trained in weapons use and hand-to-hand combat; their assessments were relayed to the White House.
Ultimately, soldiers boarded the ships with paintball guns and pistols instead of traditional anti-riot gear such as tear gas and rubber bullets. They were quickly overpowered by passengers on the Mavi Marmara, who were armed with clubs and knives. After two soldiers were critically wounded and dragged below deck, a commando opened fire , killing nine passengers and successfully ending the attack.
Obama did not condemn the IDF response, but since the flotilla incident, he has sought to ease tension with Turkey, and has called on Israel to ease its blockade on Gaza.