Israeli army probe defends flotilla raid

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.

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.

[Source: By Dave Bender, Xinhua, Jerusalem, 12Jul10]

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