An Israeli military report to be released today on the Israel Navy’s deadly May raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla is expected to accuse the navy of failing to sufficiently consider the possibility that the commandos would encounter violent resistance when attempting to keep the ships out of Gaza.
The report is also expected to criticize the navy for not cooperating sufficiently with the Mossad in gathering information ahead of the flotilla’s arrival and to discuss the process by which the raid was approved. It is not, however, expected to call for disciplinary action against particular officers.
Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in the May 31 raid after they used clubs and knives to attack Israel Navy commandos boarding the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara. Israel had previously warned that it would take over the ships to enforce its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces committee investigating the raid, headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland, is the first to complete its investigation. The Turkel Committee, appointed by the government to examine whether the raid adhered to international law, has just begun its investigation. A team from the State Comptroller’s Office will be beginning its own probe of the flotilla raid shortly.
Meanwhile, the Israel Navy is preparing to block a Libyan ship carrying humanitarian aid to the region, although sources in the IDF say chances are good that the ship will sail to the Egyptian port of El-Arish. But Yousef Sawani, who heads the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, the group that chartered the ship, said the passengers do want to reach Gaza and that reports that they are going to dock in El-Arish are intended to harm morale. He said the group was a global institution, not a Libyan one.
Witnesses and various other people who have spoken to Eiland say that his report will be very critical of the army’s conduct in the affair. Eiland is also reportedly critical of the government’s conduct, but the report will not cover politicians.
Eilan may, however, mention the government’s conduct in the press conference he has called for today. The briefing may also be the place to mention the actions of specific people with regard to the affair, if he does not mention them in his report.
It is believed that Eiland is not likely to call for action against individuals involved in the affair because of his record on such things in the past, particularly his report on the abduction of soldier Gilad Shalit four years ago.
Eiland is expected to focus his attention on specific institutions - the navy and its intelligence branch, Military Intelligence, without specifically recommending action against the officers who head these bodies.
The navy is to be the main target of Eiland’s critique of the operation, although his assessment will apparently be tempered by consideration for the navy’s success in several operations in recent years under Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom.
The Turkel Committee is expected to make use of Eiland’s conclusions as a jumping-off point for its investigation of the government’s conduct during the affair.
If the findings of Eiland’s committee and other evidence indicate that soldiers may have committed criminal offenses or war crimes, the military advocate general will be informed, and will then decide whether to open a criminal investigation, the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the High Court of Justice yesterday.
The prosecution issued the statement ahead of this morning’s High Court hearing of a petition by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, which is protesting the government’s decision to appoint the Turkel Committee to investigate the flotilla raid. The petitioners want a state commission of inquiry to be established that would probe all aspects of the IDF’s action with regard to the Gaza flotilla, including the decision making that preceded the raid. They also want the committee to have the authority to question soldiers involved in the incident.
“A situation in which after every operation soldiers have to testify before a civilian committee, and when the feeling created is that the soldiers should hire lawyers when they embark on an operation, harms the soldiers’ ability to function and the ability of the army to fulfill its duty,” the prosecution said in a statement. “In extraordinary cases, in which there is no choice, it is done. But as a rule, this is to be avoided so as not to impair the army’s ability to carry out its duty.”
The prosecution said it is up to the government to decide on the way the raid should be investigated. It said the Turkel Committee will have the authority to question soldiers and other members of the security forces regarding their responsibilities, but not to ask them about primarily military issues. The committee will also be able to ask Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi about international law as it applies to the raid.