A senior IDF officer said Tuesday that the army carefully considered the options for stopping the flotilla to Gaza, and rejected alternatives to the operation finally chosen which led to the killing of nine activists.
The possibility of stopping "Marmara," the largest vessel in the flotilla, because of its size, strength and speed, was considered. But doing this by stopping its engines was rejected because the tow to the shore would be too long. There were also fears that those on the boats would be left without water or food.
The officer said that the two pistols were snatched from IDF troops and were found on the bodies of those killed. They were without bullets because they had been fired.
Meanwhile, following UN calls for a thorough investigation into the operation against the flotilla, questions are already being asked in the Knesset.
Chairman of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi said Tuesday, "There are many intelligence and operational questions. We will insist on getting answers, on investigating and on learning lessons." Mossad chief Meir Dagan was also present at the meeting.
Hanegbi justified the government and IDF decision to act against the vessels, which were making their way to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel's blockade.
"After Operation Cast Lead, the previous government decided to impose a sea blockade on Gaza, and all goods entering the Strip via the sea would have to be checked in Ashdod first," he said. "The opposition of that time supported the decision and the current government continued this policy, and in this spirit it was decided to prevent the inciting and violent flotilla."
Hanegbi added that opposition party Kadima had also supported the operation. "We are not used to a consensus on many issues, but the feeling of injustice we all feel now, in light of the hypocrisy and cynicism of attacks against Israel on this issue strengthens the clear moral and security logic to prevent the opening of free sea routes into the Gaza Strip."
Tuesday's meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The Knesset member also explained why Israel acted. "We got out of Gaza a few years ago, and since then we have been attacked, an Israeli soldier has been in some hidden basement for four years, and thus we believe we have a right to act as we acted," he said.
He added his congratulations to decision-makers involved in the affair, including the army, the navy and the government.
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) said to Ynet, "Maybe after this operation, with its murderous character, Israel will respond in a different manner to Bil'in and Nil'in, to all the anarchist groups for peace, and the organizations working in the name of Arab Israelis. Israel needs to understand that most of these groups are the forerunners of terror groups, promoting interests against Israel. We need to treat them as organizations who have come to kill IDF soldiers."
During a separate event, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said, "We cannot expect 100% success in this kind of operation."
In a Finance Ministry conference in Jerusalem, Steinitz said that Israel is an expert in exaggerated and dangerous self-flagellation. He said that the lifting of the sea blockade would cause further missiles and terror activities.
"Israel has no choice but to defend itself," he declared. "The navy did all it was told, while endangering its soldiers."
Zvi Lavi also contributed to this report