'Future flotillas will be stopped'

Ashkenazi takes full responsibility for flawed naval operation.

Turkel Committee (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Turkel Committee
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Aid flotillas that attempt to break the naval siege on Gaza in the future will be blocked by the Israel Navy's defensive shield, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the naval graduation ceremony in Haifa Ashkenazi said that "if they come, they will be stopped by our defensive shield."
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Ashkenazi addressed the graduates and told them that they have the ability to stop future flotillas.
The chief of staff earlier on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the botched raid on the Mavi Marmara in late May, in a sharp break from the Turkel Commission testimonies of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who tried to push the responsibility down the chain of command.
Ashkenazi told the commission he was responsible for all IDF operations and that, as he was the representative of the entire military, there was no reason to summon additional officers or soldiers to testify before the panel.
In contrast, Barak placed the blame Tuesday on the IDF, which he said was responsible for warning the government if “the mission cannot be carried out.”
Ashkenazi praised the commandos from the navy’s Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – who boarded the Turkish passenger ship and, according to the IDF, were ambushed by a group of mercenaries. He said that the second soldier who fast-roped onto the boat from a helicopter had immediately been shot.
“The soldiers legitimately opened fire and shot those whom they needed to shoot, and not those whom they didn’t need to shoot,” he said.
“I am proud of the soldiers that we have,” Ashkenazi told the inquiry commission. “The IDF is a transparent organization that learns from each operation and knows how to investigate itself.”
The IDF’s main mistake, Ashkenazi said, was in the wrong assessment that only about 10 or 15 people would resist the commando raid on the ship.
“The central mistake, including mine, was that we thought there were about 10-15 people on the ship, and that if we threw stun grenades, they would move away, and then we would be able to drop 15 soldiers in one minute,” Ashkenazi explained. “Here was the real error. We needed, instead, to create conditions to accumulate a force on board the ship as quickly as possible.”
He also said that the soldiers should have targeted the rioters on the ship’s upper deck who were preventing the commandos from fast-roping down from helicopters.
“This would have decreased the risk of harm to our soldiers. That is the central lesson for the next operation,” he said.
Ashkenazi also admitted that the IDF had not collected intelligence on the IHH, the radical Turkish organization that organized the flotilla.
“The level of knowledge we had on the organization was not like the level of information we have on Hamas,” he said. “We did not investigate the organization. It was not on our list of our priorities, because it was not listed as a terrorist organization and was located in Turkey, which is not an enemy state.”
Nine Turkish men were killed in the raid.
Ashkenazi stressed the importance of preventing ships from docking in the Gaza Strip without inspection.
“The sea blockade is crucial in preventing terrorist groups from smuggling large quantities of weaponry into Gaza by sea,” he said. “An open sea will increase the threat against Israel.”