OTTAWA: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his "full backing" Monday to Israel’s military forces after a raid on a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, which left up to 19 people dead.
"The prime minister… reiterated his full backing for the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and inquired about the well being of the wounded," his office told AFP in Ottawa.
Israeli army spokesman General Avi Benayahu said he did not know who ordered a naval commando to open fire after they boarded Gaza-bound aid ships where they killed at least 10 people.
"I don’t know who gave the order to shoot, it is too early to determine," he told army radio.
"The navy acts in accordance with orders and the rules for opening fire are very clear. The soldiers had been warned not to give in to provocations."
"The navy had developed models to prepare this operation, but sometimes life is more complicated than the models.
We were prepared for a police mission to confront violence, but we were confronted to a violence of a terrorist nature," Benayahu said.
"I can only express my sorrow over all the deaths," Industry and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told army radio by phone from Doha where he is attending the World Economic Forum.
An Israeli cabinet minister said he anticipated "a big scandal" following the incident.
"It’s going to be a big scandal, no doubt about it," Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade minister, told Reuters Insider in an interview in Doha, where he was on a visit to Qatar, one of the few Arab states where Israeli officials can travel.
"The whole thing was a provocation from its beginning.
They planned it almost two months ago, and we tried all the way to explain to them: ‘Gentlemen don’t try to do it because we have all the right to defend ourselves’," he said in English.
Five Israeli soldiers were wounded during the operation. The Israeli army says its soldiers came under gunfire.
"We tried our best to block the way. Everyone can judge us. When there is blood, you cannot explain anything," Ben-Eliezer, himself a former defense minister, said.