'20 people threw me from deck'
Officer who led IDF raid on Marmara recounts battle onboard ship, says surprised by strength of resistance. 'I cocked my weapon when I saw that one was coming towards me with a knife drawn and I fired once. Then another 20 people came at me from all directions and threw me down to the deck below'
In the first interview since he was wounded in Monday's raid on the flotilla, Captain R, who commanded the troops who boarded the Marmara via helicopter, spoke of the battle that took place on vessel.
According to R, hundreds of people who were on the boat took part in attacking him and his soldiers and they were forced to use weapons because of danger to their lives.
"They wielded clubs, axes and knives," he said. "I was the second to go down the cable, one of the guys from my group was already down there, and there were a few people on him. At first it was one-on-one, until more soldiers came down."
Regarding the troops' preparation for a more extreme scenario on the decks, R said they had prepared for both passive and violent resistance, but admitted he had been surprised by the strength of the resistance.
"We knew they were peace activists," he said. "Though they wanted to break the Gaza blockade, we thought we'd encounter passive resistance, perhaps verbal resistance – we didn't expect this. Everyone wanted to kill us. We encountered terrorists who wanted to kill us and we did everything we could to prevent unnecessary injury."
R said that some 75% of the people in the vessel resisted violently, "each one with a knife in his hand."
'We jumped into the water'
R. was the soldier who was thrown from the deck, as shown in the footage distributed by the IDF. "I was in front of a number of people with knives and clubs. I cocked my weapon when I saw that one was coming towards me with a knife drawn and I fired once. Then another 20 people came at me from all directions and threw me down to the deck below."
"Then I felt a stabbing in my stomach. It was a knife. I got the knife out, then somehow got down to the lower deck where there were more people. This was when the soldiers had got control of all the boat except the lower deck. Me and another soldier managed to get to the deck, and we jumped into the water, from where our forces collected us. Another soldier who was beaten hard lost consciousness. Other soldiers covered him until we managed to get him out."
According to the results, R said, it was a successful operation.
"I think we worked excellently," he said. "We applied all the things we learned and drilled, including purity of arms. We acted only against those who endangered us, and we had to fire at them."
Meanwhile, six soldiers are still hospitalized but their condition is improving. In addition, 33 foreign nationals who took part in the flotilla are also hospitalized. Most of the participants were from Turkey, and the rest from England, Australia, Indonesia and the Palestinian Authority.
Meital Yasur-Beit Or also contributed this report