Overnight (30-31 May), Israeli naval personnel boarded a flotilla of six vessels attempting to violate the maritime blockage on Gaza. Militants onboard the Mavi Marmara attacked Israeli naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including guns, knives and clubs.
GovXParagraph3Video taken by IDF naval boat shows the passengers of the Mavi Marmara violently attacking IDF soldiers who were trying to board the ship after having sent repeated requests for the boat to change course.
It should be noted that the Turkish organizing group, IHH, has a radical anti-Western orientation. Alongside its humanitarian activities, it supports radical Islamic networks such as Hamas, and at least in the past has supported global jihad elements, such as al-Qaeda.
Israel was justified under international law in acting against the flotilla. A state of armed conflict exists between Israel and the Hamas regime that controls Gaza. Hamas has launched 10,000 rockets against Israeli civilians. At present, it is engaged in smuggling arms and military supplies into Gaza, by land and sea, in order to fortify its positions and continue its attacks.
Under international law, Israel has the right to protect the lives of its civilians from Hamas attacks. Consequently, it has undertaken measures to defend itself, including the imposition of a maritime blockade to curb Hamas rearmament. Israel cannot allow a sea-corridor to open to Gaza, a corridor which would allow weapons and terrorists to freely enter the Strip.
The flotilla organizers made clear that their primary goal was to target the maritime blockage. Greta Berlin, a flotilla spokesperson, told AFT news-agency on 27 May that "this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it’s about breaking Israel’s siege." This fact is demonstrated not only by their words, but by their actions. Flotilla organizers turned down repeated Israeli offers to land the vessels in the Israeli port of Ashdod, and to transfer their aid through the existing land crossings, in accordance with established procedures.
Moreover, while the organizers claim to have humanitarian concern for the residents of Gaza they did not have similar concerns for the fate of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and when asked, refused to make a public call to allow him to be visited in Gaza by the Red Cross.
Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no vessels – either civilian or enemy – can enter the blockaded area. In line with Israel’s obligations under international law, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned time and again that a maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza.
When it became clear that the protest flotilla intended to violate the blockade despite the repeated warnings, Israeli naval personnel boarded the vessels of the flotilla, and redirected them to Ashdod. Due to the desire to avoid casualties and operational needs, including the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, it was necessary to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.
The soldiers who boarded the vessels did not carry arms openly, but were met with a violent ambush. Two soldiers were shot, one was stabbed and others were injured as they were set upon with clubs, knives, axes and heavy objects. They were in mortal danger and had to act accordingly in self-defense.
GovXParagraph5During a search aboard the maritime vessel Mavi Marmara, IDF forces uncovered a cache of weapons including many knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5KG hammers, firebombs and gas masks in case IDF forces fired riot dispersal means at the activists as they violently attacked the soldiers. These weapons were used against Israeli Navy personnel as they attempted to board the ship.
The flotilla’s cargo was off-loaded in Ashdod and the humanitarian items transferred overland to the Gaza crossings in accordance with standard operating procedures. The participants of the flotilla who need assistance are being treated in Israeli medical facilities. The rest will be subjected to immigration procedures applicable in cases of attempted illegal entry.
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Flotilla leaders stated on Sunday (May 30) that violence was premeditated:
The organizers of the Gaza flotilla announced in advance their intention of using violence against Israeli forces if the latter tried to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. This intention was expressed in interviews given by the head of the IHH, Bulent Yildirim, to Turkish television stations on the last night of the voyage, as the ships approached the coast. Following are two examples. The interviews can be find in the archive of the IHH website: http://tinyurl.com/IHHViolence
Interview on Turkish Television Channel NTV broadcast on the evening of May 30, 2010:
Interview with Bulent Yildirim, head of IHH
Interviewer: Welcome; we have a small guest as well.
Yildirim: We’ve now entered the critical hours. What we’re really talking about here is humanitarian aid, and this small child will always remember this journey in the future. The boy’s picture will certainly pique Israeli public opinion.
Interviewer: What makes this voyage so critical?
Yildirim: The reason stems from Israel’s aggressive position, which has unnecessarily inflated the whole matter. They are using their naval fleet against women, children and elderly people. Civil rights organization representatives are here, and the whole world will see what’s happening here. We will definitely resist and we will not allow the Israelis to enter here.
(see the first three minutes of the video)
2. Interview on the Turkish state television channel TRT 1, broadcast the evening of 30 May 2010:
Bulent Yildirim: The Israelis think that the more soldiers they send, the less casualties there will be among the activists. On this ship there are also women and children. The whole world knows this. We’ll show them what is means to board the ship. If Israel wants to board this ship, it will meet strong resistance.
(see min. 96:00 of the video)