IDF chief backs up soldiers accounts before Turkel C'tee

Ashkenazi tells committee soldiers took great risks to handle foreign activists with care; probe welcomes all witnesses on boat to testify.

Ashkenazi Turkel Committee 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Ashkenazi Turkel Committee 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi appeared a second time in front of the Turkel Commission on Sunday to continue his testimony regarding the Mavi Marmara affair. He took great pains during his time before the committee to reiterate previous statement's that the naval commandos who boarded the ship took extraordinary measures to minimize the violence on the ship and that the blame for the fighting that broke out on the ship rested squarely on the activists' shoulders.
"The soldiers [upon reaching the ship] did not immediately open fire and even placed themselves at great risk. One [of the activists] tried to choke a soldier, who then threw a stun grenade to escape from the situation."
RELATED:Panel to question Ashkenazi againHasson: Barak and Ashkenazi refuse to testify togetherAshkenazi: Failure in negotiations could lead to violenceAshkenazi repeatedly emphasized that the soldiers acted in a measured manner and only hurt those whose behavior necessitated physical force. "There was no demonstration of peace activists [on the Mavi Marmara]. Peace activist do not know how to operate a weapon or to operate with gas masks and bulletproof vests in the middle of the night," Ashkenazi said.
Also on Sunday, the Turkel Commission announced that it would welcomed testimony from any passenger who was on the Mavi Marmara on the night of May 31, 2010 and who has relevant information that could shed light on the incident.
In September, Ashkenazi warned that any resistance on board flotillas bound for Gaza could lead to more casualties.
Speaking at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Ashkenazi said "this is a challenge for the IDF and for Israel."
"If we see large ships bound for Gaza and force is used then we do not dismiss the possibility of casualties," he said.