A flood of information and contradicting reports have been hitting the media since Israel forcefully halted a flotilla of ships attempting to break the maritime blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Monday. Israel Today will try to break down that information and rebut any false claims so as to paint a clearer picture of what really happened for our readers.
Israel intercepts the ships
Israeli warships made contact with the six ships making up the first wave of the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Movement late Sunday night. Israeli officers contacted the ships' captains by radio and ordered them to follow the Israeli ships back to port. The aid ship captains refused.
The Israeli army said that it expected the ships to refuse to return to port, and were ready with commando teams to board and seize control of the aid ships.
Israeli army officials later acknowledged that they had underestimated what they would face and had equipped their commandoes with only paintball guns for crowd dispersal and sidearms for self-defense as a last resort. The Israelis expected to face protestors, not armed and violent fighters.
Battle on the high seas
In a news brief published just after Israeli troops started boarding the ships, the Free Gaza Movement claimed that the crew of the Miva Marmara, the only ship that saw violence, was peacefully sleeping when the Israelis touched down on deck and opened fire indiscriminately.
The following video released by the IDF clearly shows that the crew of the Marmara was not sleeping, but rather was eagerly waiting and ready for a fight:
In the video, the Israeli commandoes are shown sliding onto the upper deck of the Marmara one-by-one, each soldier being grabbed and lynched as he reached the ship. The first soldier was severely beaten and then thrown over the side to a lower deck. He sustained serious injuries.
Knives, metal poles, baseball bats, firebombs, stun grenades and even firearms were also used against the commandoes in a clearly premeditated ambush.
This video shows a more close-up view of the violence:
In this video, one of the "peace" activists is seen stabbing an Israeli soldier in the back:
An Israeli soldier who took part in the raid gave this video testimony noting that he and his comrades were taken totally by surprise by the level of violence:
Only after the Israeli troops realized they were under life-threatening attack did they request authorization to use their sidearms in self-defense.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi debunked claims that Israel was the one bent on violence by pointing out that the other five ships were seized without a shot being fired.
Why was the Marmara different?
So, why did a violent confrontation take place only on one of the ships, the Miva Marmara?
The answer was made clear later in the day when it was revealed that the Marmara was controlled by and carrying most of the activists belonging to the IHH, a violent Turkish organization that supports Islamic terrorism.
The IHH, it turns out, had co-sponsored and organized the flotilla along with the Free Gaza Movement. This video shows IHH activists and their supporters chanting violent anti-Jewish slogans prior to the flotilla's launch from Turkey:
These guys were looking for a fight before ever setting off. As evidenced by this behavior and the presence of so many weapons onboard the Marmara, the IHH activists never intended to reach Gaza. Their goal was to pick a very public fight with Israel, and use the outcome to further besmirch the Jewish state in the media.
In that way, the tactics of the IHH mirror those of Hamas, which also publicly supported the flotilla and sent representatives to Turkey to bless its embarkation.
The legitimacy of the Israeli blockade
With details of Monday's battle cleared up, it is instructive to take a look at the legitimacy of Israel's maritime blockade.
The Free Gaza Movement insists that the blockade is illegal and oppressive, thus necessitating efforts such as its own to bring essential goods to the residents of Gaza.
But Israeli Foreign Ministry legal advisor Sarah Weiss Maudi explained why Israel has every right to impose a maritime blockade on Gaza under international law:
Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law, and may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea [which presently exists between Israel and Hamas].
Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no vessels can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian vessels and enemy vessels. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate the maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked.
Various naval manuals, including the naval manuals of the US and UK, recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure that can be implemented in times of armed conflict. And those manuals give various criteria for making a blockade valid, including the requirement to give due notice of the blockade. Israel, in accordance with the requirements of international law, has publicized the existence of the blockade currently in effect, and has published the exact coordinates of the blockade via the accepted international professional maritime channels.
Furthermore, just days before the Free Gaza flotilla set off from Turkey, Israel published details of ongoing humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza via southern Israel. The residents of Gaza receive enormous amounts of essential goods, much more than the flotilla could have hoped to deliver.
In fact, enough goods have been delivered over the past 18 months to provide every man, woman and child in Gaza with one ton of humanitarian aid each.
What the media and Free Gaza don't say is that Israel's blockade of Gaza is really a very limited embargo targeting only those items that could and have been used by Hamas and its terrorist allies to prepare rockets and bunkers.
Israel tried to explain this to the Free Gaza Movement, and offered to add the permitted goods they had collected to the daily aid truck convoys. But the activists refused, because actually getting supplies to the residents of Gaza was not their primary objective.
Unfortunately, none of these facts will ultimately make an impact on world leaders, who have already begun to play to Muslim sensitivities and their own anti-Israel biases by demanding commissions of inquiry into the Israeli raid.
The last commission of inquiry ordered against Israel was the UN's Goldstone Commission sent to investigate the month-long Gaza war that ended in January 2009. The commission's conclusions were enormously influenced by unsubstantiated Hamas claims that the investigators failed or refused to demand proof of. And while many of the report's points have since been refuted, the damage to Israel has already been done.
Any commission of inquiry into the raid on the aid flotilla can be expected to reach similar biased conclusions that will lead to demands that Israel unconditionally end its limited embargo of the Gaza Strip, enabling Hamas to once again stockpile weapons that will eventually result in another war.