An Israeli military panel charged with investigating the bloody takeover of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla says the death of nine civilians onboard the aid convoy is low.
"They (the activists) were committed to kill and be killed," Gen. Giora Eiland, who heads the Israeli military probe, told the BBC’s Panorama television program on Monday.
On May 31, Israeli navy commandos stormed a six-vessel aid fleet bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip in international waters, killing nine Turkish nationals and injuring dozens more aboard the civilian Flotilla.
The killings sparked angry street protests across the globe, prompted several countries to summon Israeli envoys and drew mounting calls for an international probe into the incident and the Israeli siege of Gaza.
Trying to placate global rage and avoid an international inquiry, Tel Aviv launched an internal probe to examine the legality of the attack while the army set up its own investigation panel led by Eiland.
The so-called Eiland commission concluded last month found "professional mistakes regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process" but said the commandos’ use of live fire was justified.
Speaking to the BBC program, the retired general said the resistance from the activists on the aid vessel "was huge, much above expectation."
"Under the circumstances in a very complex area like a ship, the results — the deaths — are surprisingly low."
Meanwhile, Paul Larudee — one of the activists on board the Gaza Freedom Flotilla at the time of the Israeli onslaught — said, given Israel’s history of killing civilians, Eiland is right to say the number of civilian casualties was low.
"I agree with him. I think the deaths were surprisingly low compared to the usual Israeli type of attacks on unarmed civilians," Larudee Press TV, recalling the deaths of some 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, during the December 2008-January 2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip.
"By most standards by civilized nations in the word, of course any deaths among unarmed civilians are considered as horrifying, but by Israeli standards I would have to agree with him," he said.