Israeli military chief: Marmara operation needed snipers


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli naval commandos should have used snipers to "incapacitate" the activists on the deck of a Turkish ship who attacked as the soldiers were boarding, Israel’s military chief said.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Turkel Commission Wednesday that the troops were not prepared for the violent resistance they met while boarding the Gaza-bound Marmara in order to intercept it on May 31. But Ashkenazi said that once the first soldier slid down a rope on to the deck, the operation had to go forward. Passengers on board the ship fired first, he said.

Nine Turkish nationals, including one Turkish-American dual citizen, were killed in the confrontation.

The Turkel Commission is an independent Israeli panel charged with investigating the incident. 

Ashkenazi said the troops "exhibited calm, bravery and morality," and their actions on the ship were "proportionate and correct."

He said that military has learned from its mistakes and likely will use sniper fire in future similar operations.

"The main mistake was that we thought there were 10-15 people on the ship’s deck," Ashkenazi told the commission. "We thought we could throw stun grenades, clear [the passengers] and then fast-rope soldiers onto the boat. This was the mistake. We should have used precise fire to incapacitate those preventing the soldiers from boarding the ship to reduce the risk to our soldiers. This is the main lesson for the next operation."

Ashkenazi will leave his post in February after four years on the job.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak testified previously before the commission. Both blamed the IDF for mission failures.

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