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IDF chief backs up soldiers accounts before Turkel Committee

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 file photo, Israel's military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi sits before testifying in front of a state-appointed inquiry commission into the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem. The Israeli commission looking into a deadly raid on a pro-Palestinian flotilla last May has summoned Ashkenazi to testify for a second time Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool, File)

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / JERUSALEM POST) — IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi appeared a second time in front of the Turkel Commission on Sunday to continue his testimony regarding the Mavi Marmara affair. He took great pains during his time before the committee to reiterate previous statement’s that the naval commandos who boarded the ship took extraordinary measures to minimize the violence on the ship and that the blame for the fighting that broke out on the ship rested squarely on the activists’ shoulders.

“The soldiers [upon reaching the ship] did not immediately open fire and even placed themselves at great risk. One [of the activists] tried to choke a soldier, who then threw a stun grenade to escape from the situation.”

Ashkenazi repeatedly emphasized that the soldiers acted in a measured manner and only hurt those whose behavior necessitated physical force. “There was no demonstration of peace activists [on the Mavi Marmara]. Peace activist do not know how to operate a weapon or to operate with gas masks and bulletproof vests in the middle of the night,” Ashkenazi said.

Also on Sunday, the Turkel Commission announced that it would welcomed testimony from any passenger who was on the Mavi Marmara on the night of May 31, 2010 and who has relevant information that could shed light on the incident.

In September, Ashkenazi warned that any resistance on board flotillas bound for Gaza could lead to more casualties.

Speaking at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Ashkenazi said “this is a challenge for the IDF and for Israel.”

“If we see large ships bound for Gaza and force is used then we do not dismiss the possibility of casualties,” he said.

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