ABOARD INS KIDON, Mediterranean Sea (Reuters) - Israeli commandos who raided a Gaza aid ship Monday were set upon by activists with knives and clubs and some troops jumped overboard to save themselves, according to an Israeli account.
Israel said commandos opened fire in self-defense and 10 activists were killed and seven troops wounded. With Israel jamming signals and censoring media, there was little independent reporting of the events at sea.
An Israeli military spokesman said some of the commandos were equipped with paintball guns but the non-lethal weapons were not enough against activists who charged in with batons.
“They had pistols with live ammunition as back-up, to defend themselves,” he said.
One of the commandos told reporters he descended by rope from a helicopter onto one of the six ships in the convoy and was immediately attacked by a group of people waiting for them.
“They beat us with metal sticks and knives,” he said. “There was live fire at some point against us.”
A Reuters cameraman on the Israeli navy ship Kidon close to the six-vessel aid convoy said commanders monitoring the operation were surprised by the strong resistance put up by the pro-Palestinian activists.
One of the commandos said some of the soldiers were stripped of their helmets and equipment and a number were tossed from the top deck to a lower deck and then leapt into the sea to save themselves.
“They jumped me, hit me with clubs and bottles and stole my rifle,” one of the commandos said. “I pulled out my pistol and had no choice but to shoot.”
Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Angus MacSwan