Another first-hand account of the Flotilla...
Hell at sea...
"They simply came for war," and nine of them ended up dead.
That's how an Israeli commando described the armed pro-Palestinian demonstrators who attacked the soldiers who boarded their vessel early Monday.
Israeli officials' plan to halt a Gaza-bound flotilla -- after what they were told would be a purely symbolic protest by the activists -- turned into a bloodbath after the commandos were assaulted with metal bats, knives and clubs as they rappelled from helicopters, eyewitnesses said.
"It looked like the 'Ramallah lynch,' " one commando said, referring to a 2000 attack by a West Bank mob that beat and stabbed two Israeli reservists to death, throwing one of their bodies out a second-floor window to a frenzied crowd below.
Israeli forces appeared stunned and ill-prepared for their violent reception.
Activists aboard the six ships carrying aid to Gaza had said they would not fight when their ship was boarded.
"The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room or blocking the engine room so that they couldn't get taken over," Audrey Bomse, a spokeswoman for Free the Gaza Movement, told the BBC.
The Israeli military's plan was to drop members of a commando team onto the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship of the flotilla, in the dead of night and rush to the bridge to demand that the boat be turned around.
Expecting only minor resistance, the Israelis were armed with paintball rifles. They carried pistols but were under orders not to use them.
The first rope dropped to the deck from an Israeli military helicopter was seized by protesters, most of them Turks, who tied it to an antenna in the hopes of bringing down the helicopter, according to Ynet, the Web site of Israel's largest paper, Yediot Ahronot.
The commandos decided to go ahead, but as they slid down the rope onto the deck at about 2 a.m. they were pummeled with metal bats and clubs and hit with glass marbles fired by slingshots, the report said.
"As 15 of us slid down the ropes, 30 of them were waiting for us on deck," one commando said. "They charged us and threw a few of the soldiers off the deck to the floor below."
"I was among the last to come down, and I saw the guys spread all over, each in another corner, with three or four people around each," the commando told Ynet.
"I saw a soldier on the ground with two people beating the hell out of him. I pushed them off of him, and they moved on to me and started to beat me up with the poles. This is how I broke my hand apparently," he said.
"At the time, I was not holding a weapon, just like everyone who came down from the rope barehanded and with our paintball guns on our backs."
"They came at me and assaulted me. I took them down to the ground. I took a few steps back and pulled out my paintball gun. They charged me while I fired at their legs," he said.
"We were being fired at, with live ammunition, from the corridor. It was bullets. I spotted a muzzle, and one of us fired at the guy. We came in after that, and he wasn't there."
"They simply came for war," the soldier said.
Another commando told the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper: "They jumped me, hit me with clubs and bottles and stole my rifle. I pulled out my pistol and had no choice but to shoot."