Israel cites flawed intelligence, planning in flotilla raid
TEL AVIV — Flawed intelligence-gathering and planning led to Israel’s botched and deadly raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla, with security forces underestimating the potential for violence, a report released yesterday said.
The reportpraised the Israeli commandos, however, saying they were justified in opening fire after being confronted by violent pro-Palestinian activists on one of the ships. Nine people died.
The report concluded that intelligence units did not communicate properly with each other. It criticized planners for not having a backup plan in the event of violence.
It did not recommend any dismissals, though it is possible some senior officers will be ousted or demoted.
The report’s author, retired general Giora Eiland, said some mistakes took place at fairly high levels, but he gave few details. The report itself was not made public, though declassified parts were discussed.
Video footage of Israeli commandos being beaten by activists on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, coupled with an international outcry over the bloodshed, led Israelis to close ranks around their military after the May 31 raid.
But the raid also focused international attention on the three-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and forced Israel to ease the movement of goods through land crossings.
Israel’s naval blockade, meant to keep weapons from reaching Hamas militants, remains in place.
This week, the blockade will be challenged again, this time by a Libyan protest ship. Organizers have said they hope the vessel will reach Gaza by today.
The Libyan ship may bypass Gaza, however, and head for Egypt’s nearby port of El-Arish. Yesterday, Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said the ship was welcome to dock at El-Arish if the organizers made a formal request. In that scenario, the supplies would be transported overland to Gaza.
The Israeli military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, said the inquiry did not reveal failures or negligence, but “brings up mistakes which must be corrected.’’
Military officials briefing reporters said that as a result of the lessons from the botched raid and the inquiry, the navy will be able stop such ships in the future. However, if activists on board attack soldiers with the intention of being killed themselves, that might well happen.
Organizers of the Libyan ship, which was sent by a charity group headed by the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, have said they do not seek confrontation with Israel but are determined to reach Gaza.
“This ship is carrying humanitarian aid, and its organizers are not looking for political propaganda or media campaigns or any provocation,’’ said Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which sent the protest vessel.
Israel has resisted calls for a United Nations inquiry into the raid, saying it would be biased. In addition to the investigation conducted for the military, Israel has appointed a civilian inquiry with a mandate limited to investigating the legality of the operation.
Two international observers have been attached to the civilian commission, led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court judge.