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Israel made mistakes in Turkish ship raid, panel finds

JERUSALEM - An internal Israeli review of the navy's raid against a Turkish aid ship faulted planners yesterday for not formulating alternative plans and concluded that the agencies involved should have shared intelligence more efficiently before the operation.

"The operation relied excessively on a single course of action, albeit a probable one, while no alternative courses of action were prepared for the event of more dangerous scenarios," the report said.

The eight-person review panel was established by Israel's military chief of staff following the May 31 raid, in which Israeli naval commandos killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American after meeting resistance from activists. The operation led to broad criticism of Israel internationally and to modifications of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is meant to isolate the Hamas-led leadership there.

"There were mistakes that were made in various decisions, including in relatively high echelons, that led to the unexpected result," said retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel's National Security Council, who led the inquiry.

Still, at least in the short excerpts that were released publicly from the 100-page report, the team did not single out any specific commanders for censure. Rather, it found that the presence of an Israeli navy commander at sea during the operation "proved effective in terms of the decision-making process" and "saved lives."

Naval commandos operated "properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness," the report said. "The use of live fire was justified" and "the entire operation is estimable."

The report concluded that four to six Israeli soldiers were fired on with live ammunition and that one of those injured was shot in the knee by a non-Israeli-issued firearm, suggesting that the activists had brought at least one gun on board. The inquiry also found that passengers had cut off banisters from the ship to use as weapons against the Israeli soldiers.

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