The committee elected to investigate the deadly Israel Defense Forces raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla ship in late May handed in its report Monday, in which it says that there had been "no failures, but mistakes were made".
The committee, headed by Major-General (Res.) Giora Eiland, concluded that high-level officials had made errors in judgment, but accused no one of negligence.
The report was handed Monday afternoon to the army's chief of staff as well as a number of high-rank officers. Since the Eiland committee was appointed by the IDF, its report deals neither with the state's conduct nor the army's pre-emptive gathering of intelligence, but rather focuses on preparations for the flotilla's arrival.
Analysis of the incident that occurred on board the Turkish Marmara, the report says, led the committee to conclude that the activists on deck had been the first instigators of violence.
At least four instances of live fire on soldiers were noted, though the committee believes there were six in all. In addition, a bullet removed from a soldier's knee shows the Turkish activists had prepared non-military arms to use against the forces.
Eiland with IDF Spokesperson Avi Benayahu (Photo: Ofer Amram)
The report adds that the IDF had begun preparing for the flotilla in February. In mid-May Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak requesting their cooperation in order to prevent a violent incident.
The first issue probed by the committee was whether the Navy had the chance to stop the ships before they arrived in Israel's territorial waters. It concluded that this was not an option because the Navy has not yet developed such abilities, which take around two years to acquire. The army is discussing the option of doing so now.
More intel needed on IHH
Another issue probed was that of intelligence gathered by the Navy and the Military Intelligence Directorate before the flotilla set sail. The committee concluded that the IDF had chosen not to collect intelligence on Turkey and the IHH because the former is considered friendly and the latter unthreatening.
Eiland said this decision seemed correct, but that army officials should have taken into consideration the changing tides of Israel's relations with Turkey in the first months of 2010, which was also the time the IHH began openly discussing the flotilla.
He added that the developing relationship between the IHH and the Turkish government necessitated more extensive research than provided by intelligence sources.
However, Eiland said, even with more research intelligence still would have failed because so much of the violence had been brewing on board the Marmara itself.
Regarding the actual raid, the report found that the Navy had prepared only for "likely" resistance by a handful of activists, and not for a violent attack. Even when the ships neared, and the Navy began to understand it had erred, no new set of plans was formulated.
Eiland said the Navy should have understood that the situation did not match its assessments and stop to reconsider the actions it would take.
Aside from the criticism, the Eiland committee also made use of its report to praise the forces that conducted the raid. "I am glad to say we found a long list of praise-worthy things, and these do not only have to do with the conduct of the commando soldiers on the ship but also with other factors, including the evacuation of victims after the operation," the major-general said.
And in any case, he concluded, there was probably nothing the army could have done that would have led to a vastly different outcome. "We must learn from the conclusions deduced by the investigation and the way I see it, the IDF is trying to do so," Eiland said.
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