by Dave Bender
JERUSALEM, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli army said on Monday that errors were made in the "intelligence and the decision-making process" in a deadly naval commando takeover of a Gaza-bound flotilla. Army officials, however, denied any "failures" in the complex operation.
|Former Israeli general Giora Eiland (R Front), who heads Israeli army's internal|
investigation panel, prepares to leave after a news conference in Tel Aviv, on
July 12, 2010. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)
The results of an internal probe into the circumstances of the early-morning raid on the Mavi Marmara, one of the Gaza-bound six- ship flotilla, showed that "there were some professional mistakes, regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process," said former army Major General Giora Eiland, who headed a panel tasked with investigating the incident.
Eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American were killed and dozens injured when an Israeli naval special operations team tried to take over the flotilla on May 31. Nine soldiers were also wounded.
However, the panel defended the army's decision to board the ships and open fire.
Fifteen commandos, who reached the decks of Mavi Marmara from helicopters hovering overhead and boarding craft racing alongside, opened live fire on passengers "only when they were in real and immediate danger to their lives," Eiland told reporters at a news conference, where some of the panel's results were revealed.
Eiland's panel, which focuses on the army's preparations and follow-through of the takeover, does not deal with political or diplomatic decisions behind the incident, which are being dealt with by other Israeli bodies.
Some aboard, however, disputed Israel's claims and said troops shot sleeping passengers.
IHH, a Turkish organization and a major sponsor of the flotilla, released a report at the end of June, saying that the Israeli soldiers did not open fire on the ship as a warning, but rather to directly kill unarmed civilians.
"The participants saw the Israeli soldiers firing real bullets as they came down from the upper floors of the ship. (The participants) started to defend themselves with water bottles, chairs, sticks," read the report which was quoted on the Free Gaza Movement website, the major coordinator of the flotilla.
However, the Israeli army said events were otherwise.
"There were at least four events where people on the ship shot at our soldiers," Eiland said, noting that shell casings from non- IDF rounds were found aboard, as well as a bullet that hit one soldier in the knee, that was not from an IDF weapon.
There was an attempt to achieve three separate military goals at the same time in the takeover, senior army sources told Xinhua, adding "stop this flotilla, provide protection to our troops, and to avoid casualties on the other side as much as possible." "In retrospect," an official said, "we can say that we achieved the first one; we did not fully manage to achieve the two others."
Eiland did not say if any officers or soldiers would face repercussions over events surrounding the raid, but did say that the results "were presented and they were accepted in a very open way by those officers that were criticized in this report."
With a Libyan aid ship, and future flotillas possibly headed for a rematch with the army, Eiland said that "some of the things we learned from this event, might be, or should be, or will be implemented," in any future clashes, Eiland said.
A Moldova-flagged vessel is heading to Gaza carrying a large amount of food and medicine, and is funded by an organization chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son. However, Palestinian sources reported on Monday that the ship is expected to dock at an Egyptian port, where goods will be shipped by land into Gaza.
While, the IDF said it could not "guarantee" that future boardings might not have similar results.
"If we assume that tomorrow we will face the very same event with the very same ship and all the other characteristics," a senior army source told Xinhua, "it will be possible using better measures, to give better protection to our soldiers ... but we cannot say that it will prevent the casualty of the people who were on the ship or might be on the next ship."
The army said the 150-page investigation report will be released in full on Tuesday.
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