Israel: probe finds intelligence errors in Gaza flotilla raid

An Israeli military probe found insufficient intelligence and planning in the May 31 raid on several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip in a report released July 12, but also concluded that no punishments were necessary. The Eiland Commission, which was formed last month to investigate the raid, was composed of professionals outside of the chain of command for the flotilla raid and had been assigned to study the outcomes of the incident and “establish lessons.” The commission declassified some sections of its findings, which concluded that the Israeli Navy failed to sufficiently consider the possibility that its troops could encounter violent resistance.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the probe did not blame the soldiers, but rather the navy’s intelligence officials:

In terms of the intelligence effort, the team concluded that not all possible intelligence gathering methods were fully implemented and that the coordination between Navy Intelligence and the Israel Defense Intelligence was insufficient. At the same time, the team emphasized that it is not certain that an optimal intelligence effort would create a complete intelligence picture. The team also pointed out that the anticipated level of violence used against the forces was underestimated.

The report also pointed out the operation relied “excessively on a single course of action… while no alternative courses of action were prepared for the event of more dangerous scenarios.” It also went on to commend the actions of the soldiers and their commanders, who exhibited “correct decision making” and justifiably resorted to the use of their firearms.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also established a panel of jurists to investigate the attack independently from the IDF investigation. To head the probe, Netanyahu appointed former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yakov Tirkel, who has since demanded that the investigation be given the same authority as a state commission of inquiry. The internal probe, approved by the Israeli cabinet, did not have the power to subpoena witnesses or recommend sanctions—powers that official state commissions possess. If the probe is considered an official inquiry, witnesses would be required to give testimony under oath. Tirkel also wanted the size of the panel to increase from five members to seven. Netanyahu agreed to the requests, avoiding Tirkel’s threatened resignation. The panel has not yet completed its investigation.

Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza in May. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists—eight Turks and one American.

From Jurist, July 12. Used with permission.

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