Israeli troops 'not ready for flotilla violence'

Israeli troops were not ready for the violent resistance they met when they boarded a Gaza-bound aid ship and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, the country's top military officer said yesterday.

Speaking to an internal Israeli inquiry, Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi gave the most detailed explanation so far of what went wrong with the military plan in the 31 May raid, which sparked an international outcry.

IDF commandos failed to clear the decks with stun grenades they used, and rappelled from their helicopter straight into a brawl with men wielding iron bars and knives and were even met by gunfire, he said.

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The raid quickly became "chaotic", he said. "After the first soldier went down the rope there was no choice but to continue with the plan."

The operation to stop the ship reaching the Gaza Strip, under blockade by Israel and Egypt, depended on getting as many commandos on deck as quickly as possible, Gen Ashkenazi said. That did not happen.

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