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Report slams Israeli flotilla raid

June 13, 2012

Israel's state watchdog has slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. The operation left nine Turks dead and severely damaged Israeli-Turkish ties.

A photograph supplied by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shows Israeli sailors in the navy base in Haifa as they prepare to set sail into the Mediterranean Sea on 29 May 2010 in order to track and intercept the Free Gaza Movement flotilla.
Image: picture alliance/dpa

In a 153-page report issued Wednesday, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found there had been "significant shortcomings" in the decision-making process that led to the botched raid on May 31, 2010.

It said Netanyahu had not held formal discussions with top ministers about the flotilla, only holding separate, inadequately documented talks on the issue with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minster Avidgor Liebermann.

"The process of decision-making was done without orderly, agreed-upon, coordinated and documented staff work," the report said.

Among other things, the report claimed, no plans had been made for a suitable response in case activists on board the flotilla were armed, despite warnings from Barak and the then chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed after Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was heading a six-ship flotilla trying to breach Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The flotilla had continued to sail towards Gaza, despite Israeli warnings that it would not be allowed through. The commandos opened fire after being attacked with clubs and metal rods when they stormed the ship.

Damaged relations

The incident triggered a diplomatic crisis with Turkey, with Ankara threatening war-crimes suits against Israel.

Israel imposed a land and sea blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas militants seized control of the territory, saying it was to prevent weapons from reaching the radical Islamists.

The naval blockade is still in place, although the land embargo has been significantly eased amid international condemnation of the plight of the Palestinians under the restrictions.

Netanyahu has defended the military action, calling it "a direct result of responsible administration and resolute policy."

"Israeli citizens enjoy a level of security they have not had for many years," he said in response to the report.

The report is unlikely to damage the domestic standing of Netanyahu, who is the popular leader of a coalition that holds three-quarters of the seats in parliament.

tj/sej (Reuters, AP, AFP)