Summary of the Events on the Free Gaza Flotilla

Here’s the summary of the Flotilla situation that I have pieced together:

Please watch the video of the soldiers being attacked IMMEDIATELY upon boarding Mavi Marmara by “non-violent” protesters.

1. The Free Gaza Movement organized the flotilla but did not control all of the ships and it could not vouch for the contents of the ships or necessarily the activists on board each ship. The ostensible leader of the flotilla said that Israel would have to stop them by force.

2. The flotilla was supposed to be a non-violent protest and its passengers non-violent protesters. This proved horribly untrue on ONE of the ships, the Mavi Marmara. NO SIMILAR VIOLENCE TOOK PLACE ON ANY OTHER VESSEL.

3. The Mavi Marmara was controlled by the IHH, a Turkish organization that is known for outspoken support of Hamas and terrorism against Israel.

4. At least several passengers on the Marmara were NOT non-violent protesters but VIOLENT ones and PLANNED TO USE VIOLENCE if boarded. Significant amounts of weaponry were readied on the ship designed to attempt to repel an assault at a minimum or to capture or kill members of an IDF boarding party.

5. The moment IDF soldiers boarded the Marmara, if not before, they came under attack by numerous people with metal bars, boards, and evidently knives as seen clearly in the video at the link provided above. IDF soldiers did NOT “immediately open fire with bullets on civilians” as reported by the Free Gaza movement, though they may have used the paint ball guns they carried.

6. No similar violence occurred on any other ship boarded by the Israelis which may have been the result of the effectiveness of the use of anti-piracy techniques.

7. It appears that at least some of the vessels may have employed anti-piracy techniques against the Israelis which escalated the situation significantly as I wrote about here. The video of the use of anti-piracy techniques by at least one ship is telling.
The use of anti-piracy techniques resulted in the incapacitation of at least two soldiers on the Mavi Marmara and turned the seizure of the ship into a rescue mission with soldiers in a life threatening situation in which the use of stronger force unfortunately became necessary.

8. The IDF soldiers had riot suppression gear including paint guns as their primary means of response. They also carried handguns, but no heavier weaponry.

9. With at least two soldiers incapacitated by the mob on the Marmara immediately and at least one handgun taken from a soldier and turned against other soldiers, the situation escalated and soldiers were given permission to use live fire if necessary, but to shoot to incapacitate, to target legs. The IDF says that two soldiers were shot PRIOR to the approval of the use of live fire in defense by the IDF possibly with a gun seized from one of the incapacitated soldiers.

10. There was no chance to withdraw to de-escalate the situation because IDF soldiers were in mortal danger and at the time possibly on the verge of death, “lynching,” as one authority reported.

11. It is unclear exactly how the deaths of those who died occurred. They could have been killed deliberately in self defense, accidentally by stray fire in close quarters, or accidentally by the activists themselves attempting to fire on Israeli soldiers. The IDF reports the accurate death total as NINE, mostly from Turkey.

12. It is clear that the IDF had no intention of using more than a minimal level of violence, crowd control, against the flotilla and that the major violence was instigated by the passengers on board the Marmara who used anti-piracy techniques that escalated the situation.

13. It is possible that the passengers anticipated the IDF assault on the ship by relatively weakly armed soldiers and intended to capture and hold Israeli soldiers as hostages. Regardless, whatever was intended by the level of resistance on board the Marmara failed because of the training of the IDF soldiers who unfortunately for the protesters responded appropriately and immediately.

14. All of the ships involved in the flotilla were forewarned that Israel would be stopping the ships. That the timing of the interdiction was earlier than expected cannot possibly have resulted in a radical alteration of the plan of the activists to switch from non-violent resistance to violent resistance. It seems that anti-piracy efforts were intended to prevent the seizure of the ships.

15. There are those who argue that the raid took place in international waters and therefore violated international law. The relevant international law, however, supports Israel’s position. According to The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994

Neutral merchant vessels
67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:
(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

16. There is no little bit of international condemnation of Israel on this issue. Much of it is to appease Turkey and the Arab League. However, should the United States fail to defend Israel on its actions during this event, it will encourage future and much more dangerous encounters in the future.
17. The US should say, “Upon obtaining a clear understanding of what occurred on board the Marmara, the United States feels that the response of Israeli soldiers to a life threatening situation was both appropriate and proportional and that had it not been so many more lives would have been lost. The extreme violence on board the ship theoretically carrying non-violent protesters was instigated by the passengers, not by the soldiers who boarded out of a legitimate concern for Israel’s security. The history of weapons smuggling by Hamas gave Israel every necessary concern to prevent these ships from reaching land. Without peace, both sides face a bleak future.”


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3 Responses to Summary of the Events on the Free Gaza Flotilla

  1. Willard says:

    If this occurred in international waters, which I think it did, the IDF is on very shaky ground. It is a very rational legal argument to say that the people on these boats could use any and all means at their disposal to defend themselves against aggressors on the high seas. Boarding a vessel on the high seas is a high risk action. After boarding a vessel in such a manner and then saying you are justified in killing people because there was no other way to de-escalate the situation isn’t going to be accepted by anyone.

    If this had happened in Israel’s waters it may be different from a legal perspective.

  2. gil says:

    impressive analysis and a very persuasive narrative. thanks.

  3. Not true, Willard. International law has been quoted in various comments and blogs, but one of my commenters here (Miguel, I believe) posted the relevant sections of the law. If Israel knew the ships were running a blockade, they were within their rights. I was wrong to call it a boneheaded act. Have to update that post, come to think of it.

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