Above: Turkish military bulletproof vests found on the Mavi Marmara "peace ship" (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today expressed strong support for Israel's Naval commandos in the wake of the violence they encountered on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel that was one of six ships in a flotilla determined to break Israel's embargo on the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza.
"This was no peace flotilla but a violent and planned force. We have film and pictures that underscore what our soldiers faced and the last thing that could possibly be said about that ship is that it was a peace ship," he said.
"Today, I visited the wounded fighters at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and I heard from them waiting for them on the deck of the ship were terrorists armed with cold weapons such as axes, knives, clubs, bars and the like, and it is likely that they also snatched weapons. Our soldiers acted against them with equanimity and heroism. We regret the loss of life – but give full backing to the soldiers and to the IDF regarding this action," he said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also explained why it is necessary to check ships transporting equipment and people to Gaza. "We know from the experience of Operation Cast Lead, and from before it, that war materiel which enters Gaza is directed against our citizens," he said.
"Gaza is an Iranian-sponsored terrorist state; therefore, we try to prevent the entry of war materiel into Gaza, whether by land, sea or air. True, they smuggle war materiel through tunnels but smuggling via the sea is completely different, quantitatively," Netanyahu explained.
"On the Francop alone, we captured approximately 200 tons of war materiel smuggled from Iran to Hezbollah. Opening a sea route into Gaza would constitute a great danger to the security of our citizens. Therefore, we persist with a naval blockade and check the ships. There is no possibility of maintaining this policy without checking ships' cargoes.
"True, there is international pressure and criticism of this policy but we must understand that it is vital in order to maintain Israel's security and Israel's right to defend itself."