Testimony from the Turkel Commission...
Brutality on deck..
"Upon landing on the middle deck, I fractured my arm, and a mob of dozens of people attacked me and basically lynched me." So reads the testimony of the first soldier who fast-roped down from the helicopter unto the deck of the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, last May.
"(The assailants were) pulling off my helmet, strangling me, sticking fingers into my eyes to gouge them out of their sockets, pulling my limbs in every direction, striking me in an extremely harsh manner with clubs and metal rods, mostly on my head," recalled the comando that the report refers to as soldier no.1. "I truly felt that I was about to die, way beyond what we define as life-threatening."
The report released by the Turkel committee, which looked into the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, includes a number of such testimonies from the naval commandoes that took part in the incident, some of whom were taken captive and held in the ship's interior.
The statements, which were collected by the Israeli Defense Forces upon the commission's request, paint a grim picture. The first soldier on the scene described it as a battlefield; while still in the air, he saw that the activists awaiting bellow were wearing gas masks and life jackets and were armed with iron clubs, rods and axes.
Moreover, the report states that the weapons IHH activists used in order to attack the soldiers were made from pieces of the ship's railing, despite the crew's attempts to stop them from cutting up the metal for this cause.
The captain of the Marmara, Mehmut Torel, said he had been surprised by the large number of weapons the activists had succeeded in creating. He testified to having thrown some of them overboard while stowing others away in a locked room.
Torel added that, knowing what the consequences would be if the activists were allowed weapons, he asked them repeatedly to behave civilly. "I thought that because there were civilians on board nothing would happen," he testified.
"The behavior of the people at this stage was definitely like fighters of an enemy which has come to kill the other side, that is, me," soldier no.1 said. "I felt that at any moment I would take a blow to the head which would kill me."
The commander of the Navy commando force said in his testimony before the Turkel committee that the resistance on board had been well-planned.
"No regular citizen knows how to fight at night with a vest and gas mask for an extended period of time, to take a weapon, cock it, and fire without fear when engaging someone in a fight, unless he was properly trained ahead of time," he said.
'I realized I won't be able to overpower mob'
At one point, soldier no. 1, who was earlier thrown by the Turkish activists to a lower deck, 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) bellow, realized that he will not be able to overpower the assailants. He considered jumping into the water, but was afraid to hit the deck bellow him. He was able to grab hold of his gun, cock it and shoot one of the attackers in his leg. He then received a harsh blow to the head.
"This stunned me briefly, and in this second they grabbed the weapon from me," he said. "At this stage, I thought that the mob wanted to take me as a captive and use me as a bargaining chip for entry to Gaza or in general. A lot of blood began streaming down my face from the wounds to my head. The mob continued to hit me."
Soldier no. 4, as the report calls the fourth soldier to rappel from the first helicopter, was the one to suffer the worst injury. After the incident he was hospitalized, put on a respirator and was operated on to treat a scull fracture.
Soldier no. 4 recalled that upon his arrival, one activist was waiting for him with a crowbar, but he managed to beat the activist to the punch.
"Immediately another four terrorists jumped onto me while one of them wrapped the chain around my neck and strangled me," he recounted. "While I was struggling with them I thought of
drawing my pistol but I felt that if I drew it, because they were up against me and kicking me, I wouldn't be able to shoot and they would grab the pistol from me. At this stage, I lost consciousness, apparently from the strangling - I saw stars."