The Washington Post

Flotilla attack

Jun 01, 2010

The U.N. Security Council early Tuesday condemned "those acts which resulted in" the deaths of at least nine civilians aboard an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, and called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent" investigation into why and how the Israeli military acted to stop the ships from reaching their destination.

Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Pele was online Tuesday, June 1, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss today's developments.

A request for a spokesman from the Turkish Embassy has been made and we are awaiting a response. Please consult the Live Discussions schedule.

Hi, I'm Jonathan Peled, the spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. I'm ready to take your questions on yesterday's incident.

Why didn't Israel wait until the boats were in Israeli waters? Would this have made the operation harder?

Israel intercepted the flotilla boats after repeatedly urging them to re-direct to the Israeli port of Ashdod, adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Israel had promised to distribute all humanitarian aid to Gaza, a promise that we are still upholding, despite yesterday's incident. 

"Extremists on the boat started the violence," said Mark Regev (Israeli spokesperson) a few minutes ago. Do you have any facts about this assertion?

Absolutely. The soldiers boarded the boat with paintball guns and were immediately attacked with iron bars and knives. Two soldiers inflicted gunshot wounds. It is not clear whether the extremists had their own pistols or whether they used IDF pistols snatched from the soldiers, which were only to be used in self-defense.

How many protesters remain in custody, and have they spoken with their families, lawyers, or embassies?

A few hundred extremists/protestors remain in custody. Many have been deported. Many refuse to divulge their identities, which complicates the deportation process.

Photo Gallery:  Israel: At least 9 pro-Palestinian activists killed on Gaza flotilla carrying aid

If you haven't seen this video yet, I encourage you to view it to see what really happened:

Why was the flotilla stopped at all? Was there reason to believe the passengers or cargo were dangerous?

A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. It is a legitimate and recognized measure under international law. It has been imposed as Israel is in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza. Hamas has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

Will the blockade be lifted? What circumstances would warrant that on behalf of the Israelis?

Israel has no conflict with the people of Gaza. The people of Gaza are under the rule of a terrorist regime that vows to destroy the State of Israel. In addition the Hamas have been holding an Israeli soldier captive for four years without releasing any information and prohibiting the Red Cross from visiting him.  The blockade, which is supported by Egypt, the United States and other countries, will be lifted the minute Hamas ceases to attack Israel, call for its destruction and denounce terrorism.

Video: Close-Up Footage of Mavi Marmara Passengers Attacking IDF Soldiers (YouTube)

Have any weapons been discovered on the ships?

Additionally, we are still checking the contents of the ships' containers.

Pictures: Israel Defense Force Spokesperson

Who were the first people to fire shots, and who were the first ones hit by gunfire?

The Israeli soldiers boarded the ship with paintball guns. Their orders were to use their sidearms only in extreme measures of self-defense. Several pistols were forcefully seized from the soldiers. The soldiers were savagely attacked by a mob with iron bars and knives, as can be seen in the attached video. Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds. According tothe  initial investigation, the soldiers were fired upon first and only responded in self-defense.


Thanks for doing this chat, Mr. Peled; you should be getting combat pay right about now (so to speak)! A statement, then a question: While I am Christian, not Jewish, I was raised to be 100 percent pro-Israel (which my family and many friends still are). But starting with the 1982 Lebanese incursion, I've found my sympathy for your government's policies slipping--to the point that this latest incident leaves me on the verge of being more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, for the first time in my life. While I acknowledge that there is a double standard about the use of violence, I look at the video of Israeli commandos descending on the deck of a ship in international waters and just cannot see any excuse for that. What can you say to the millions of Americans who feel as I do (according to surveys)--who really want to be in your country's corner--to persuade us that it was necessary to employ deadly force against civilians? Why couldn't your navy simply escort the flotilla to land and explain, politely but firmly, that they would not be allowed to unload their cargo? Thanks.

The offer to escort the flotilla to Israel was made even before the flotilla embarked on its PR voyage to Gaza. Israel offered to transport the humanitarian shipment to the people of Gaza after screening for weapons and ammunition, as is the standard procedures. The organizers refused and stated that their aim was to break the blockade and sought provocation. Five of the six ships were boarded and guided to shore without violence. Only the sixth ship applied violence and attacked the Israeli soldiers boarding the ship after repeated calls to ships captain to reroute to the adjacent Israeli port of Ashdod.  The people onboard were fully equipped and prepared to attack the soldiers., which led to the tragic consequences.

Has Israel been speaking with the Turkish government about the attacks? How is Israel planning to repair relations with the formerly-friendly Turkish government?

Israel reached out the Turkish government when we first learned of  IHH's intentions to send a boat to Gaza. Israel was receptive to the Turkish government's request to allow the humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. The Turkish government backed away from its own initiative and did not interfere with the IHH sending the ship. We are coordinating with the Turkish government the deportation of the Turkish citizens onboard the flotilla. Israel is disappointed by the Turkish criticism. We value our relations with Turkey and we'll make every effort to maintain our important relationship.

I will be taking one last question. Thank you.

The weapons cited by the IDF--metal poles, knives, etc.--don't look to be threats to Israel's national security. Rather, they look like fairly standard maritime tools, no?

Weapons are weapons. Knives can kill, iron bars can kill, even hands can kill. We've seen in America the damage that simple boxcutters can cause. The issue was not the people onboard, but the need to ensure that no weapons or terrorists enter the Gaza Strip, reaching the hands of Hamas. This scenario would, in fact, pose a national security risk to Israel, and this is the reason for the blockade. Had they adhered to our offer to peacefully hand over their ships' content, the confrontation would have been prevented. As a matter of fact, currently we are transferring the screened humanitarian aid directly to Gaza.

Goodbye and thanks. For further information, please visit

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Jonathan Peled
Jonathan Peled is press spokesman for the Israeli Embassy.
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