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Israel storms Gaza aid ships in international waters

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Okay, Wikipedia to the rescue:


So if nobody does anything about them sealing off Gaza in the first place, why should this incident change anything?

Best regards,


I think the nationalities of the vicitms is a difference. Assaulting turkish, greek and even US vessels in international waters also its new to me. This wont end well for Israel.

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I'll avoid political comment, as I doubt useful discourse will result.

But from a purely tactical/operations analysis viewpoint, I do wonder why they chose to intercept the ships in international waters. Israel would have been on much more solid ground under maritime law if they'd waited until the ships crossed at least into the Contiguous Zone (24nm from shore). Given the fact that the flotilla vessels were hardly capable of evading warships and military helicopters for any length of time, I can't imagine the Israeli Navy would have had much trouble catching them before they made it to shore if they had planned an interception closer in.

Perhaps the decision was made to do the interception farther out so that they could do the operation under cover of darkness. Again, though, this hardly seems necessary to me given the capabilities of the Israeli Navy. And assuming arguendo that Israel's claim that the activists on the ships opened fire first is true, doing the operation in daylight would have made it easier to document this.


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Blockade law dates back to the later half of the 19th centurey - lots of it comes from ofritish & US interactions during the American Civil War for example & the Treaty in Paris in 1856 in he wake of the Crimean War. WW1 saw lots of developments & breaches by all and sundry too - especially the British of course!

The London Declaration of 1909 gives a flavour to what it meant way back then.

Basically - a blockade had to be declared, and be enforced (note clauses 2 and 3). And as long as those conditions are met then yes it was perfectly acceptable to board any shipping at all on the high seas that you suspect might be running it.

If a ship is found to be knowingly trying to breach a blockade it is then subject to seizure - "condemnation" - and all it's cargo can be forfeit.

Of course not everyone ever signed up to this anyway.......and heaven alone knows what it means 100 years later......

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On the wiki page for the attack the Israeli's quote para 67 of hte "San Remo Memorandum", and if you follow that link you find a reference to the "San Remo Manual on International Law applicable to armed conflict at sea".

And THEN....if you are so inclined you can check out their definition of a blockade (Part IV Methods and means of warfare at sea, Section II: Methods of warfare; Blockade)- and to my untrained eye it looks a lot like the same definition as the 1909 London version linked to above.

I guess seaborne commerce hasn't changed so much in 100 years....and so neither has blockade!

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Of course the fundamental point is whether the blockade is itself "legal".

I think Israel is managing to make itself unpopular everywhere. My concern is that most religions believe that when their people die they go to heaven. People like me believe we die forever and therefore are unlikelyto go for the mass suicide route.


shows the Jewish groups that are opposed to the Israeli state as a concept, that according to the Torah Israel is a no-no.

Amusingly there is a lot of letter writing going on to the press saying that democracies - of which Israel is included - are safe to have nuclear weapons and are not warlike anyway. Anyone who thinks the attack on Iraq by the US and the UK would suggest there is not much difference. If those at the top want a war they will concoct one.

I think this is Israel playing extreme brinkmanship with the US to force the US to do something otherwise Israel will blow the region apart. However I am not sure that using the US as a hammer for Israel actually solves the long-term problem at all.

Is it better than it happens now or in ten years when there will be many more weapons around? Israel cannot make itself invulnerable anymore than any other country in the world can. If it believes it can it's leaders are deluded. Getting rid of all your friends just makes life more difficult - however when pulling the trigger if everyone is deemed to be againsty you it becomes easier I suppose.

Does anyone believe that the provision of advanced weaponry to the Israelis has made them anymore likely to seek a peace? Is the constant expansion of its borders by building settlements aimed at breeding goodwill or is it a constant sop to the kingmaker religious groups.

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While I am not going to comment on the legality of the operation (I honestly don't know), I would like to question the methods used. As far as I can make out, Israeli commandos rappelled down onto the deck of a ship with 600 angry people on it and failed to gain the element of surprise. It seems to me it was a bit optimistic to believe that a few commandos could calm the situation down in what could potentially turn into a riot. It did.

The problem with incidents like this is that they serve little purpose except as propaganda for the Palestinian troublemakers and their sympathisers in the West and the Middle East. Israel has the image of the sadistic prison guard in the minds of these people and killing demonstrators will just serve to strengthen this image and make them even more glad to 'stick it to the man' by supporting the various terrorist groups in the region (Hamas' democratic election victory anyone?). Of course the Israelis and their backers are not much better in this regard - they view the Palestinians as criminal troublemakers who are ungrateful for what they get and their backers as either naive or antisemitic.

At the end of the day though, Israel has to accept that it is supposed to be the responsible and civilized party in this conflict (as it so often claims to be) and to actively reach out to the disaffected parties on the other side of the political divide. There are certainly a lot of people who are sick of the fighting and dialogue and compromise is the only way to solve the problem. Episodes like this and Cast Lead etc. are popular within Israel but do nothing to solve the root cause of the Palestinian 'problem'. They just make the symptoms worse.

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As usual the international news media is having a field day in its rush to judgment.

Based on reports of the operation, it appears the IDF was not expecting any resistance and things spun out of control:

"They came for war,” was how one Israeli Navy commando described the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger boat where clashes erupted early Monday morning and ended with at least nine activists dead and dozens others, including eight IDF soldiers, injured.

“Operation Sea Breeze”, as it was called by the IDF, actually began several hours earlier at about 11 pm Sunday night as the Navy made its initial contact with the Mavi Marmara and the other five ships which were part of an international aid flotilla on its way to try and break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on Gaza.

After several hours of radio communications and warnings that the Mavi Marmara would be boarded if the captain did not change his ship’s course, at 4 am Monday, OC Navy Vice-Admiral Eliezer “Cheney” Marom, who had set up a command post on the INS Victory, gave the order to Flotilla 13 to board the ship.

The three Israeli Air Force Blackhawk Helicopters hovering nearby made their approach above the Mavi Marmara’s upper deck. Sitting on board, the naval commandos could just make out the few dozen activists gathered below. Carrying non-lethal weapons as well as pistols, the last thing the soldiers thought they would walk into was a well-planed lynch.

“As the 15 of us slid down the ropes, 30 of them were waiting for us on the deck,” one of the commandos later told reporters. “They charged us and threw a few of the soldiers off the deck to the floor below. We did not expect to find ourselves in such a situation.”

The assessment within the Navy was that the activists would resist the Israeli takeover of their ship but along the lines of the demonstrations the IDF faces weekly in the West Bank where Palestinians protest against the security barrier. Rocks and punches would be thrown as well as an occasional knife but not the extent of violence they met.

As the rope fell from the helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara’s deck, some of the Turkish activists grabbed it, tied it to an antenna likely hoping that it would bring down the helicopter. The Navy commandos decided to still go ahead with the operation and began sliding down onto the ship.

Armed with rifles that could shoot paintballs – which can hurt but not kill – the soldiers landed on the ship and immediately came under attack by dozens of activists armed with knives, bats and metal pipes. Activists grabbed soldiers and tried to hold them hostage, stripping them of their helmets and equipment.

One of the soldiers tried to protect a commando who was being lynched by a group of activists. They were instructed by the flotilla commander to refrain from using their sidearm unless their lives were at risk.

Soldiers feared for their lives, asked permission to open fire

The force threw several stun grenades but the violent attacks continued. Two soldiers were injured and some of the activists succeeded in stealing one of the soldier’s guns. Shots were fired and one of the soldiers fell to the ground unconscious. Fearing for their lives, the soldiers asked and received permission to open fire, first taking aim at the activists’ feet.

In one corner of the ship, the commandos saw a gun flash. They returned fire and started chasing the shooter but could not find him.

As the clashes intensified, additional commandos boarded the ship as well as members of the Border Police’s Yasam unit who are experts in riot control and crowd dispersion. After less than an hour, the ship was in Israeli hands. The price though was steep – eight soldiers were injured, several of them seriously and at least nine activists were killed.

By the evening, the naval commandos were back at their base in northern Israel and had begun their debriefing.

The videos taken by the IDF were passed around throughout the defense establishment and made their way to other special forces, including the Israel Police’s elite counter-terror unit Yamam, which had fought to participate in the mission but had been left on the sidelines due to legal complications involving police operations out at sea.

“The soldiers acted with the utmost nobility,” said one police source close to the Yamam. “They engaged in hand-to-hand combat, sustained injuries, but only opened fire after one of them was lying on the ground unconscious and two others had been shot. This was an unbelievable demonstration of restraint.”


I also question the tactic of rappelling down at night single file on top of an angry group. A more classic naval boarding during the day would appear to be more prudent.

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The Israelis claim self defence but who was the aggressor in the first place? It seems that both parties preferred to meet in daylight and within the blockade zone and have their pantomime play out in front of the world's cameras. Whoever authorised storming the boat in the dark in international waters should be held accountable, but Israel doesn't seem to do well in holding its own citizens accountable for lethal unfortunate "accidents"

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Is the blockade legal?

IMO the answer is a firm maybe :)

No doubt many lawyers can make much dosh from arguing it, but blockades have been carried out against all sorts of entities - not just sovereign states, and not just in times of war.

Certainly the Israelis declared it, and are obviously enforcing it.

And the blockade runners did not follow the prescribed conventions for shipping humanitarian aid - one of which is specifically that it must be organised or shipped by an entity capable of complete impartiality - such as the Red Cross/Crescent - that ensures that it does contain only what it is supposed to .

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Yes and I don't think anyone would say that Israel doesn't have the right to protect against rocket attacks. The antural attrition on the rocketeers has been achived through the blockade, air strikes and of course, the much less united Palestinian cause. But really this is a policy of starvation aimed at making the poeple in Gaza so destitute they will rise up against Hamas. Which will never happen because Hamas controls the guns and it's a no-brainer for them to just point the finger at Israel and say "See why you still need us?"

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Hardly hallal either!

I don't think it is a policy of starvation. Gazan's are certainly not getting fat on what is allowed in, but I've never seen any accusations that anyone is starving to death there.

It is certainly a policy of "pressure" - "you can get normal supplies if Hamas isn't trying to destroy us" sort of thing......but if Hamas says "see why you still need us" then Israel can point to the West Bank and say "or you could ditch Hamas and live like this" (which may still not be wonderful for those of us in nice rich liberal democracies of course...but would be better for the "average" Palestinian in a Gazan street!)

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This is a huge Israeli FUBAR operation. I'm not sure what they were trying to do besides make a mess. Now they have nine dead civilians that weren't citizens or Palestinians (for the most part) and have lost relations with the one moderate Muslim country that would talk to them (Turkey.) Why didn't they just wait until the ship was in their own waters? Or, just seize the goods and personnel when it docked? It's not like the ship was going to sneak into Gaza undetected. For them to claim there were weapons and terrorists on board is bit far-fetched. What organization would attempt sneak either into Gaza in the most obvious possible way?

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