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Is Israel flotilla raid involved espionage, sabotage?

Carlos Benson|Monday, June 28, 2010

The  worldwide debate about last Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has concentrated relatively little on the operation’s intelligence aspect. This is rather puzzling, considering that the intelligence aspects of the attack are largely responsible for its bloody outcome. Many first accounts or the flotilla participants, as well as some facts purposely were ignored or at last not paid attention to.

The Gaza-bound ships had drawn minor international attention prior of the raid in international waters by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But the effort by the Israeli security services to prevent the flotilla from reaching its intended destination did not begin in the evening of 30-th of May 2010 the Mediterranean Sea. It started several months before the fleet of ten vessels was even chartered by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (ÍHH). PENETRATION It was in February when the Turkish-based charity informed the world about the plans to challenge the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip with a 20-ship convoy carrying humanitarian supplies. It was probably at that point when the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, intensified its efforts to penetrate the ÍHH, a registered charity with an open membership policy.  According to former members of Mossad, Israeli intelligence probably had “more than one man” on board the flotilla, providing Israeli military planners with real-time intelligence. In fact, considering the immense political sensitivity of the Gaza Strip blockade, it would be naïve to think that members of several other national intelligence agencies, including those of Egypt, Turkey, Iran, as well Hamas and Hezbollah operatives, were not among the crew and passengers of the ships. Depending on the extent of intelligence penetration of the ÍHH, it is also possible that Israeli military planners were in possession of accurate ship manifests. This would imply that IDF planners were aware of the identities of the flotilla crew and passengers prior to Monday’s early-morning raid. Even Israeli commandos had the pictures in their possession of some passengers of the ship in question:MV Mavi Marmara. SABOTAGE Moreover, it appears increasingly likely that either Israeli or Egyptian intelligence operatives were behind of at least two of the aid ships, American-flagged Challenger I and Challenger II, which were eventually unable to join the rest of the flotilla. Both vessels accounted this same mechanical problem after setting sail from Heraklion, Crete, and were eventually forced to dock at a Cyprus harbor. An unnamed IDF official, who relayed the details of the raid to the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, spoke of a series of “gray operations” conducted against the aid ships. Commenting on the same subject on Israel Radio, deputy defense minister indicated that sabotage was responsible for the “fact [...] that there were less than the ten ships that were due to participate in the flotilla”. There is also evidence, reveled by no other than the director of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, that Israeli intelligence considered sabotaging the rest of the ships after they set sail for Gaza”. However, the Mossad eventually rejected the idea “after being warned by experts that the sabotaged vessels would be stranded in international waters, possibly causing a humanitarian crisis” –undoubtedly an ironic statement, considering the eventual bloody outcome of the IDF attack. After the attack and subsequent imprisonment of the activists , it was revealed later that  total count of passengers on board the  attacked  ship  , after counting dead , wounded and the rest:  about 6 activists ‘disappeared”, they  did not come back  from imprisonment  and did not  joined  all the activists on their way back  to  Turkey. Communications was another aspect of the Israeli intelligence operation against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Soon after setting sail for Palestine, aid organizers on board the ships told news media that Israeli authorities were attempting to disrupt   wireless communication between the ships, and that the cellular phones of most flotilla passengers had been disabled   by around 2:00 a.m. on May 30. At 4:00 a.m. on May 31, as the IDF raid on the ship convoy began to unfold, the ÍHH website, which was streaming live footage from the aid ships, was inoperable by a massive denial-of-service attack, and remained inactive throughout the bloody raid. By that time, it was clear that the Israeli effort to thwart the mission of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was not a law enforcement action, but rather a military operation. Code named Sea Breeze, the operation was planned by the IDF and approved at the highest government levels. It is indicative that the raid was carried out by the same Special Forces unit that in 1988 blew up the Palestine Liberation Organization vessel al-Awda. FAULTY INTELLIGENCE Yet, despite the revered image that is often projected by the Israeli security services, faulty intelligence may be at the root of the debacle on the MV Mavi Marmara, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s largest ship, where IDF commandos killed nine and injured over 60 passengers and crew. Even from the officially approved videos posted on YouTube by the Israelis, it is evident that the Israeli troops were as panicked and frightened as the civilians that tried to prevent them from taking over the vessel. It appears that the sustained and coordinated response to the raid by several dozen passengers on the ship was not anticipated by the invaders, nor did they expect that the resistance would continue despite the IDF’s shoot-to-kill approach. It’s possible that initial mêlée against the commandos was initiated by agents disguised as pacifists. But  this  initial  coordination was a “surprise” to the invading commandos, did not go according to the previousely agreed plans. Intelligence observers will be researching and debating the operational details of the bloody Israeli raid for a long time. In that regard, Israel is against independent investigation of the raid. There is no question at this point that the immediate operational mission of the IDF attack –preventing the flotilla from breaking the Gaza Strip embargo– was achieved. Yet it is also clear that the raid’s lethal outcome has severely injured Israel’s long-term diplomatic and strategic status and the raid did not go according to the original plans.  Probably shot to kill order did not execute intended targets.  Autopsies indicated commandos killed activists from close range (45 centimeters).  Its worth to indicate that, even the Mossad director, Meir Dagan warned Knesset members that “[e]vents [like this] are likely to go out of control and the situation could deteriorate to extreme scenarios”. To some extent, Dagan’s “extreme scenario” and may I add “unwanted”, has materialized; raid did not go as planned by the Intelligence agency. Small details like number of activists, pictures of activists in commando hands, initial resistance provoked by disguised activists being the fact. Intelligence agents render this raid as highly damaging to the state of Israel.   The worldwide diplomatic and popular demonstrations all over the world against Israel’s actions in international waters has been unprecedented in recent years, and has further  is isolating  the Jewish state from the world community in general and the West in particular. Even the most hard-line Israeli leaders recognize that the country is too small and strategically vulnerable to withstand prolonged international isolation. Could the IDF assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tip the scales in favor of the Palestinian cause and thrust the Israeli-Palestinian dispute into uncharted waters?  It seems that the answer is: Yes, as seen already in discussion about easing the blockade of Gaza, and recent arrest of Urij B. in Poland.  Charles Benson
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