Army Radio reporter Gal Lev-Rom, on board one of the Israeli Navy ships that stopped the anti-Israel flotilla, reported on the â€œpeace activistsâ€ preparations to lynch Israeli soldiers and on the large weapon stocks they brought.
Lev-Rom said that at one point around midnight, "our ships started calling upon them to stop, or else the full responsibility would be upon them." It was similarly publicized in news sources around that time that Israel said it would give the boats time to adhere to the instructions before its forces would begin to board them.
"There was no answer other than curses in English and Arabic," Lev-Rom said. Around 4 AM, the commandos started boarding the boats, rappelling onto them by ropes and armed only with pistols. At that point, Lev-Rom said, "the demonstrators on board attacked the Israelis with light weaponry, including knives and clubs, in true lynch-like fashion. The commandos are certainly well-trained, but it’s quite hard to fight back when it’s 6-10 people against one. They started beating our soldiers with bats and sharp objects and the like, and even some pistols were taken and fired at our soldiers."
Lev-Rom noted that the army is checking a report that rifles were fired at the Israelis. "The fighting occurred on deck, but one soldier was thrown down to a lower floor, and another soldier had no choice but to throw himself off the boat into the water. From then on, the soldiers had no interest other than to protect themselves and their comrades. Their actions, from all indications, were without reproach, as well as very heroic. Several soldiers were only seconds only away from death before their fellow soldiers saved them."
Other reporters said that the soldiers said they were truly not prepared to face violence of this nature. It was said that many of the "peace activists" spoke only Arabic and didn’t understand English.
"The activists had many things ready for an attack on the soldiers," Lev-Rom said, "including, for instance, a box of 20-30 slingshots with metal balls; these can kill. There were also all sorts of knives and many similar things. These are what they call ‘cold’ weapons, as opposed to live fire. It was quite clear that a lynch had been prepared."
Lev-Rom said, however, that it appears the army, "even though it prepared for many different scenarios, was not ready for this one. The army seems not to have known what type of people were there and what type of weapons they had. It was hard for Israel to conceive that the ship, sponsored by the country of Turkey, would have such weapons. Israel was prepared to deal with anarchists, and instead had to deal with terrorists – that’s the feeling here."
A total of 38 wounded were taken to four different hospitals in Israel, including seven Israeli soldiers. Among the latter are one or two in serious condition, from gunshot wounds, and three in moderate condition. No specific reports were issued on the 31, other than they are being treated in Sheba-Tel HaShomer, Ramban in Haifa, Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and Beilinson in Petach Tikvah.
The IDF issued a statement saying that, "As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity [by the ships’ passengers], naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants on board the ships were planning to lynch the forces… The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose."