Flotilla Probe Cites ’Mistakes’

An IDF probe says it made mistakes in preparing for the flotilla clash May 31, but there were no wholesale failures. A Libyan ship is on the way.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 12:08 PM

Israel Navy at Flotilla
Israel Navy at Flotilla
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The IDF made mistakes in preparing for the flotilla clash May 31, but there were no wholesale failures, according to a probe of the incident. The report by Major-General Giora Eiland was submitted as a Libyan ship heads for Gaza in another effort to challenge Israel’s sovereignty over the waters off the Hamas-controlled Gaza coast.

His investigation is independent of the Turkel Commission, which also is covering areas beyond the military action itself.

Eiland said that several mistakes included the lack of intelligence on the activity of IHH terrorist activists, who had planned to attack Israeli Navy commandos who intercepted the six-ship flotilla. Eiland said that Israeli intelligence did not reach the proper conclusion that the IHH group is involved with terrorist operations. Germany declared Monday that the IHH is a charity front for a terrorist organization.

The Navy made a tactical error in ordering the commandos to land on the deck of the Turkish flotilla ship, the Mavi Marmara, by climbing down ropes that were attached to a hovering helicopter. The IHH members, armed with metal clubs, ganged up on each commando before he could place both feet on deck.

At one point, three commandos had been kidnapped until the Navy soldiers were able to overpower the ship.

The IDF appointed Eiland and his team to examine the deployment towards the flotilla, advance preparations, alternative ways to confront the flotilla and the operation's implementation.

The team included eight officers and their examination focused on intelligence, Navy command, the naval commando unit responsible for carrying out the operation, the Air Force, media relations, technological alternatives, medical aspects and legal counsel and international law.

The team pointed out that the anticipated level of violence used against the forces was underestimated and that the IDF did not prepare for an alternative course of action in the event of violence.

The experts determined that the Navy Commando soldiers operated properly and that the commanders exhibited correct decision making. Eiland wrote in his report, "The fact that the IDF examines itself and others do not results in that only the errors of the IDF are publicized.” Government officials have said that Turkey should be investigated for its sponsorship of the IHH group and the flotilla.

The IDF has put into effect lessons learned from the clash and is preparing for the worst possible scenario as the Libyan ship nears the Gaza coast. The government has warned that it will not allow the ship to reach Gaza, where it would dock Wednesday or Thursday, based on its current location and speed.

The vessel was chartered by Libyan’s eccentric leader Muammar Qaddafi (pictured), and one of his sons, infamous for scandalous adventures, is reportedly on board. Israel’s seizing the ship would create a sensation in Libya. Qaddafi’s spokesman Yusuf Sa'anei has stated that the ship will not violently confront the Israeli Navy and will sail to Egypt if forced away from Gaza.

“Do not overestimate its anti-Israel position,” Israeli political scientist Avigdor Eskin told Pravda. “First of all, now he wants to get his PR in terms of a trendy topic - attempts to break the blockade of Gaza - and change his image. Some in the Arab world started labeling him as pro-Western and pro-Israel. Participation in anti-Israel event will allow him to justify himself.”