New information surrounding the May 31st flotilla raid was revealed on Wednesday during the testimony of the Israeli army's Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, in front of the Turkel Commission. Ashkenazi's testimony followed statements made on Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and on Tuesday by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
An Israeli commando was shot in the stomach while rappelling down to board the Mavi Marmara ship, forcing him to respond with pistol fire, Ashkenazi told the panel. An examination of bullet remnants did not match those of Israeli weapons, indicating that the IHH activists on board the ship had guns.
"The soldiers justifiably opened fire" in response, Ashkenazi said. "They opened fire at those they needed to, and didn't at those they didn't need to.
Israel did not have sufficient information about IHH – the Turkish Islamic charity that sponsored the Mavi Marmara ship, he said. According to Israeli intelligence sources, IHH planted 40 operatives on the ship to stage a violent confrontation with Israelis. The U.S. State Department has acknowledged that IHH has ties to Hamas. The organization is also a member of the Union of the Good, an organization designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2008 due to its fund-raising activities on behalf of Hamas.
"The soldiers aboard the Marmari (sic) displayed courage and purity of arms," Ashkenazi said, "and responded correctly to the dangers they faced."
Israel recently returned the Mavi Marmara ship to Turkey, as well as two other Turkish ships that were part of the flotilla. The deputy chair of IHH and chief organizer of the flotilla, Hüseyin Oruç, said "If the problem is not solved, many flotillas ... will sail to Gaza. If necessary, these boats can also be used for this."
IHH may join another flotilla to Gaza before the end of the year, along with dozens of other organizations and groups from countries across the globe, including the U.S., Chile, Venezuela, Sweden, Greece, France and more.