Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau: Avoid Turkey
JERUSALEM, Israel - Following Monday's confrontation at sea with the Gaza protest flotilla, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel advisory warning Israelis not to visit Turkey.
"In response to the events surrounding the protest flotilla, there are growing protests by the government and public in Turkey. At this stage, relatively quiet demonstrations are taking place around the Israeli consulate in Istanbul and the Israeli Embassy in Ankara. This delicate state of affairs is liable to deteriorate into violent outbreaks against Israelis in Turkey.
"Israelis due to leave for Turkey should - at this stage - refrain from traveling until the situation becomes clear.
"Israelis currently in Turkey should remain in their places of residence, avoid city centers and sites in which demonstrations are being held, and monitor developments out of concern that the situation could worsen."
Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said his country is recalling its Israeli ambassador, cancelling three planned military drills with Israel, recalling a youth soccer team visiting Israel, and requesting an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said "No one has the right to do this. No one is above the law."
But Hebrew University international law expert Dr. Robbie Sabel told IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis) that the Israeli Navy acted well within its rights under international law.
Dr. Sabel said a state can detain a civilian vessel trying to break an embargo in international waters during a time of conflict.
Furthermore, it is permissible to respond with force if the vessel attempting to break the embargo uses force.
Dr. Sabel said there have been many such embargo encounters in international waters.
IDF Flotilla Raid Results in Deadly Showdown
JERUSALEM, Israel - Protesters on board the flagship of the Gaza flotilla used guns, knives, clubs and metal pipes to attack IDF naval forces who boarded the vessels around 2:00 a.m. Monday morning.
"It was a well-planned lynch," one IDF officer said. "These people were anything but peace activists," he said, this despite repeated claims they were unarmed civilians on a humanitarian mission.
The confrontation took place after the flotilla ignored a series of warnings that began around 11:00 p.m., requesting them to redirect to the Ashdod port where they could unload their cargo for land transport to Gaza.
Click here to read an analysis of today's confrontation by Dr. Mordechai Keder of Bar-Ilan University. Here's more from Chris Mitchell's Jerusalem Dateline.
When naval forces boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were met with gunfire, long knives, metal pipes and clubs. Two passengers fired weapons they had grabbed from soldiers.
"As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire," the IDF Spokesperson's Office said in a press release.
"According to initial reports, these events resulted in over 10 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured," the IDF said, including 15 Navy commandos, two critically injured.
IAF helicopters evacuated some of the injured to Israeli hospitals.
'Premeditated and Outrageous Provocation'
At a press conference Monday morning, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Ayalon said the protesters' response was "a premeditated and outrageous provocation," planned and carried out by Islamists with ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda.
"Their intent was violent, their methods violent and their results were unfortunately violent," Ayalon told reporters.
"Israel regrets the loss of life and did everything it could to avoid this outcome," he said.
Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed the flotilla's organizers for the loss of life in what he called a "political provocation" supported by terror organizations.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the confrontation "a slaughter," according to an Agence France Presse report.
An al-Jazzera correspondent aboard one of the vessels claimed the IDF attacked the flotilla in international waters, with aerial support and gas.
A Qatari TV station broadcast live images interspersed with Hamas spokesmen vowing to punish Israel for "the new crime."
"This is state-sponsored organized terror," senior Hamas official Ismail Raduan said. "We are calling on the international community to do something," he said.
"These are crimes against humanity and against our Palestinian people. We call on all members of the Arab and Muslim people to launch protests of rage and solidarity," Raduan said.
Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh called on the U.N. to intervene on behalf of the Palestinian people against Israel's "brutal attack."
Jerusalem Post correspondent Yaacov Katz summed it up pretty well.
"Pictures and videotapes published and broadcast around the world" will be fodder for "another chapter in an international campaign to chip away at Israel's legitimate right to defend itself," Katz said.
The ships will be taken to the Ashdod port where the cargo will undergo security checks before being transported to Gaza.
The Jerusalem Post and YNet contributed to this report.
IDF Soldier Shot, Critically Wounded on Flotilla Boat
The IDF reports that the passengers on the Gaza-bound flotilla lay in wait for the IDF to board their vessel and then attacked IDF soldiers, opening fire on them. One IDF soldier was critically wounded. A crew member reportedly snatched a gun from an IDF soldier and then opened fire on the troops. Another soldier was stabbed in the stomach with a sharp object. The soldier is in moderate condition and was transferred for medical treatment by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Doctors there determined he would require surgery. At least fourteen soldiers were wounded and were transferred to hospitals. Raad Salah, anti-Semitic head of northern branch of Israeli Islamic Movement, is reported to be severely injured.
The IDF spokesperson said that the crew of the flotilla were not peaceful humanitarians, but rather militants who were preparing for provocation and violence, and were planning to stage a "lynch" of the Israeli soldiers.
Other people wounded in the operation were transferred to various hospitals in Israel via helicopter. Foreign news agencies including Turkey's news agency are claiming that Israeli forces wounded dozens of the crew and that several were killed. Footage from the operation has already reached some news sites. In the footage, Israeli soldiers wearing gas masks can be seen. In one video, an IDF doctor can be seen treating one of the wounded.
Soldiers are still checking the boats for explosives and hiding militants.
More On This Story:
Late Sunday night, the Israeli Navy surprised the six-boat flotilla bound for Hamas-controlled Gaza in international waters and hundreds of IDF soldiers who came by air and sea boarded the ships and announced to all passengers that they are under arrest.
One of the crew said that one “Navy warship” had contacted the six boats in the flotilla and asked them to identify themselves. They were told the Navy would board the boats if the ships's crew and passengers do not agree to head for the Ashdod port instead of the Gaza Coast, where Israel maintains sovereignty under the Oslo Accords and does not allow ships to approach without searching them for arms.
International law allows for countries to ask suspicious boats to identify themselves. The vessels' passengers did not cooperate and called the move "scare tactics" on their streamed broadcasts.
The IDF searched the boats for arms immediately after the takeover. The soldiers were forced to use tear gas after they were attacked with knives, daggers and cudgels, putting their lives in danger. Unofficial reports that ten persons have been killed and another ten wounded were admitted to Rambam Hospital in Haifa were changed by the Arab television station Al Jazeera, to two killed and four wounded. An Al Jazeera reporter on one of the boats reported hearing gunshots.
The IDF has not issued a complete report on casualties or wounded in the operation. However, hospitals were put on alert to accept possible wounded.
The IDF released a terse statement shortly after midnight Sunday, stating, "Israeli Navy soldiers left this evening in order to stop the flotilla's provocative trip to Gaza. During the last few days, the soldiers have been conducting drills to ensure the mission's success."
Turkey's government called an emergency meeting to discuss the IDF action. Defense Minister Barak is holding ongoing meetings with his advisors.
The flotilla activists, some of whom are identified with terrorist Muslim groups, did not expect a confrontation with the Navy until Monday morning, when the flotilla expected to near the Gaza coast.
The flotilla sailed on Sunday, more than two days later than planned and without two of the ships that did not join because of malfunctions but which were expected to set sail after repairs.
“We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation of threats of violence against us,” said activist Huwaida Araf from the ships. “They are going to have to forcefully stop us.”
Israel was determined not to allow the boats to reach Gaza and set a precedent that would break Israeli sovereignty over the waters in order to prevent terrorists and arms from being smuggled from the Mediterranean Sea as they are from Egypt.
The flotilla included three ships of passengers and three cargo ships with aid. The Israeli military and Foreign Ministry accused the activists of being more interested in trying to stage an anti-Israel stunt and strengthen Hamas rather than trying to help Gaza Arabs. Government spokesmen pointed out repeatedly that aid always can be shipped to Gaza through the Ashdod port, and that the alleged “humanitarian crisis” is a ruse because Israel oversees daily shipments of hundreds of tons of food, merchandise and supplies.
IDF Photos of Knives Contradict Turkish Claims of ’No Weapons’
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
IDF photos of two dozen knives, including a machete, plus clubs, chains and metal rods used against Israeli Navy commandoes in the flotilla
clash Monday contradict Turkish claims that the passengers did not carry weapons on board.
“Customs officials at the Port of Antalya have denied Israeli claims that weapons were detected on a ship taking humanitarian aid to Gaza that took off from Antalya on Sunday,” the Turkish news site Today’s Zaman
It quoted a customs official as stating, “Forty-two passengers boarded in Istanbul and 504 passengers got on the ship here. They were screened. We spotted no weapons and there is no such record in our logs. We did not notice anything suspicious about the Mavi Marmara. Had our officers had any suspicions, they would have reported it.”
The IDF confiscated and photographed the weapons, which were used to brutally attack Navy commandoes as they descended one of the ships via ropes from hovering helicopters. Greta Berlin, spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, claimed to Israel National News
that the IDF edited the video showing the commandoes landing on board.
Concerning the weapons, she told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
, "I will venture to say that Israel is lying about this because the weapons that I saw coming on board this morning belonged to Israel. If there were weapons, they planted those weapons."
Turkey recalls top envoy
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Ankara warns of potentially irreparable harm to ties.
Israel braces for Turkish, Hizballah, Hamas reprisals. Greece halts joint drill
DEBKAfile Special Report May 31, 2010, 11:35 PM (GMT+02:00)
Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel on Monday and warned that the IDF’s pre-dawn raid on the Gaza flotilla might have caused “irreversible consequences” in the relationship between the two countries.
“It should be known that we are not going to remain silent in the face of this inhumane state terrorism,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid initial reports that Turkish nationals may have been among the dead and wounded.
Turkey canceled three joint military drills with Israel and called on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session on the matter.
Analysis: From now on, it gets harder
Israel issues travel warning to Turkey
Analysis: A race to contain the damage
Lieberman: 'Flotilla violence planned in advance'
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that a youth soccer team in Israel would be brought home as well.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel was surprised to hear that Turkey had asked its ambassador, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, to return to Ankara. The issue had not come up in a conversation the Foreign Ministry had with Celikkol on Monday morning, nor in the conversation that Israel’s ambassador to Turkey had with officials in Ankara.
Turkey’s Deputy Under-Secretary Selim Yenel told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to recall the ambassador had been taken only after those meetings were held.
“Under the circumstances,” he said, “it was the least we could do.”
Turkey has recalled its ambassador from other countries in response to much less.
He said he did not know how long it would be before the ambassador was returned. At present, he said, Celikkol had been “recalled for consultations.”
But there was no question, he added, that Israel’s actions had harmed the relationship between the two countries, which has been rocky since the IDF’s military operation in Gaza in January 2009.
“We have tried to salvage the relationship,” he said.
Yenel noted that it was important to stress that “this is not a Turkish-Israel incident,” but an issue of Israel’s relationship with the international community.
This was an attack on a “peaceful ship,” said Yenel, who dismissed the IDF claim that it had been attacked.
There are peaceful ways of preventing boats from entering one’s territory, he said.
“We expect Israel to act in a responsible fashion and to make amends,” he added.
However, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman defended Israel’s actions, without which, he said, ships like this one could transport weapons to Gaza.
Israel had the right, as did any sovereign nation, to inspect ships heading into its waters, he said. The foreign minister added that Israel “has not changed its attitude toward Turkey; it is Turkey which has changed.”
Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basburg
's military sources report Israeli concerns that Turkey may not confine itself to strong diplomatic retaliation for the Israel Navy's seizure Monday, May 31, of the Marmora, the Turkish vessel leading the flotilla for breaking the Gaza blockade and resort to military action along with the Iranian-backed Hizballah and Hamas. A statement from Ankara threatened "unprecedented and incalculable" reprisals, following which the Turkish chief of staff Gen. Ilker Basbug was recalled urgently to Ankara from a visit to Egypt. Greece has since halted its joint exercise with Israel in protest against the naval action.
reports from Ankara that the Turkish government is planning to continue pounding the Israeli blockade with more flotillas and have them escorted by Turkish warships and fighter jets. Israel merchant vessels moored outside Ashdod port have been instructed to sail into port and take shelter in case of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Monday morning, Israeli warplanes headed west over the Mediterranean in support of the still ongoing Israeli commando operation aboard the Turkish Marmora, the scene of violent clashes between Israeli troops and the 600 "peace activists," some of them armed. Ankara later reported 15 dead aboard the vessel.
Israeli army spokesman, Col. Avi Beneyahu, called the incident "an act of terror on the high seas." Far from being a humanitarian mission, the flotilla was sponsored personally by Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and permit arms supplies and terrorists to reach the Strip unrestricted. It aimed at provoking a widely publicized international incident with fatalities and showing Israel using strong-arm tactics against unarmed peace-lovers.
Its leaders and the nations involved therefore refused to heed warnings that the vessels would be prevented from entering Gaza Port and rejected Israeli offers to ferry their aid cargo overland to the Gaza Strip. Population within missile range of Gaza advised to take shelter in secured areas.
Nine activists were killed battling with Israeli troops, and dozens injured. Ten Israeli soldiers were wounded, two critically. They were all ferried to Israeli hospitals by helicopter.
The pro-Hamas passengers were described as mobbing the Israeli commandos as they were dropped onto the Marmara's deck, using knives and iron bars to beat them and shooting with a sidearm snatched from a soldier and at least two other pistols recovered empty from two of the bodies.
Israeli security forces are preparing for the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas to go back to shooting missiles and rockets against Israeli towns, in support of the seaborne attack on Israeli commandos. The police are also on special alert in and around Israeli Arab communities, after Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called them out on a general strike, and the Holy Places, especially in Jerusalem.
Egypt will face pressure to end its joint embargo on Gaza with Israel at the Arab League Council meeting urgently Tuesday, June 1. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded the session.
Demonstrations against Israel were staged in Syrian and Lebanese towns. Jordan hands stiff complaint to head of Israeli diplomatic mission in Amman