According to this report, which Scott linked to below, the Israeli commandos who were attacked as they boarded the Marmara initially used paintball rifles, the kind used to disperse minor protests, to fight off the attackers. The commandos also had hand-guns, but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. According to the same report, the commandos kept shouting, “don’t shoot, don’t shoot” even as they were attacked.
When the paintball rifles proved ineffective, the Israelis reportedly used stun-grenades. These too had little effect. According to the same report, the Israelis resorted to using their handguns only after the attackers seized one commando, wrested away his handgun, and threw him down from the top deck to the lower deck, 30 feet below. At that point, the commandos began shooting at the legs of their attackers.
Noah Pollak is outraged that the israelis boarded the boat armed with paintball guns, and, to be sure, there is a “bring a toy gun to a knife fight” quality to the story as reported. Noah writes:
Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.
On the other hand, if the Israelis had immediately neutralized their opponents by shooting them before the attacks had clearly put the commandos in danger, they would be susceptible to rational claims (as opposed to the claims that have been lodged) that they vioatled the concept of “proportionality.” That concept, though invariably misused by anti-Israelis, should not be entirely without force.
It does seem that the IDF miscalculated the intensity of the resistance they were going to face from the fighters on the Marmara. The IDF’s assessment was correct as to five of six boats, but not the sixth. In these situations, five for six isn’t good enough.
If the report cited above is accurate, this looks like another instance of the IDF erring on the side of trying to avoid bloodshed, perhaps in the hope of avoiding condemnation, and ending up with both the bloodshed and the condemnation.
SCOTT adds: Via Daniel Halper’s round-up at the the Weekly Standard blog, I find that Melanie Phillips lucidly explains what happened here: “This was an Ismalmist terror ambush.”
JOHN adds: Phillips’ account assembles the most detailed information I’ve seen so far. For a broader assessment of the flotilla’s purpose, see William Jacobson:
The flotilla was organized by the Islamist government in Turkey to aid Hamas with the goal of opening up shipping channels for Turkey’s new friend, Iran, to ship more and better weapons as it is doing to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran is busy turning Lebanon and Syria into one large missile launching pad against Israel, and a southern base in Gaza will complete the encirclement of Israel for the coming crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.
The Europeans on the ships were cover, and the placement of an 18-month old child on these ships was the utmost cynical use of a human shield.
If getting humanitarian supplies to Gaza really was the goal, this flotilla was not necessary. The supplies would have been off-loaded in Eqypt or Israel and then shipped in by land after being checked for hidden weapons.
And that is the rub, only sea-based shipping would provide Iran with the mechanism for almost unlimited armament of Hamas. There is a limit to the quantity and size of missiles and other armaments which can be smuggled through tunnels from Egypt. That is why the sea blockade must be broken for Iran to get what it wants.
This video, shot from a helicopter overhead, shows some of the violence on board the Mavi Marmara:
A last observation: the action against the ships was not a “raid,” as it is generally being described. Israel and Egypt have imposed a naval blockade of Gaza, and Israeli soldiers were enforcing the blockade. They directed the ships to dock at an Israeli port rather than continuing into Gaza; when the ships refused to do so, they boarded the ships to take control and steer them into the Israeli port. Which is what they did, once the violence on one of the ships had been put down.
This is what happens when you have a blockade. If you allow ships to sail past without boarding them, it isn’t a blockade. So if the blockade is legitimate, then Israel’s action in boarding the ships was legitimate. And the blockade is certainly legitimate, since terrorist supporters shipped rockets and other armaments into Gaza which were used to attack Israel.
The flotilla has nothing to do with “humanitarian” purposes, as humanitarian supplies are routinely shipped into Gaza by land. It has everything to do with Israel’s enemies trying to bring the blockade to an end so they can resume shipping weapons into Gaza.
ONE MORE: This video shows even better the viciousness of the terrorist sympathizers who masqueraded as “peace activists.”
On cue, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, has called on Israel to end its “counterproductive” blockade of Gaza. Which was always the point.
The blockade evidently is counterproductive to Hamas, which is why the terrorists and their allies in Europe and elsewhere are trying to force Israel to end it.