IDF chief to Gaza flotilla probe: Commandos acted proportionately
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday morning testified before an internal probe into Israel's deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid convoy, defending the military from politicians' accusations that it botched the operation, haaretz.com reported
"The commandos exhibited calm, bravery and morality," Ashkenazi told the inquiry panel, headed by former chief justice Jacob Turkel. Their actions were "proportionate and correct", he said.
Ashkenazi said the outcome of the May 31 raid, which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead, was impossible to predict.
"From the moment the operation began, it was clear that the circumstances were unprecedented," he said, adding that as commander he took full responsibility for the troops' actions.
The IDF chief, who is set to step down in February at the end of a four-year term that has seen him increasingly at odds with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, repeated the army's version of the raid, saying commandos used live ammunition only after they were attacked.
In testimony on Tuesday, Barak heaped blame on the IDF, telling the inquiry that the failure of the operation did not stem from the decision to carry it out but from its planning and implementation by the military.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also implied that the IDF, and not politicians, had been responsible for the controversial interception, which drew international condemnation and prompted the United Nations to set up its own inquiry.
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after Hamas militants seized power in the coastal strip in 2007, claiming that the measures are necessary to halt the entrance of rockets and other weaponry that has been used against its southern communities.