Former IDF Chief of Staff says "We're sorry" – just hours before release of UN report on Mavi Marmara deaths

Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz [Haloutz] said today: “We are sorry people were killed during the operation, very sorry“. He was speaking about the Israeli naval interception of the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean on 30 May 2012, at a briefing for journalists organized at rather short notice today at the Mishkenot Shaananim center in Jerusalem.

Is that an unofficial/official apology?

Halutz added: “I believe there were some innocent ones among those nine, but…that mission was not so innocent”.

Halutz told the journalists at the press briefing that the “The word apology is too strong…because Israel was doing a legal action to prevent [a violation] of the siege we imposed”. And, Haloutz added: “Our soldiers were under a live threat”.

Yes, it looks like Haloutz had already been briefed about what was in the UN report, and yes, it sure looks like an attempt at a finessed Israeli apology.

Halutz was IDF Chief of Staff from 2005-2007, and was previously commander of the Israeli Air Force, and he said today
that he made many trips to Turkey in his professional capacity. But, Halutz is now retired from active military service, having been severely criticized for Israel’s military performance during the Second Lebanon War — and dabbled in business before joining, just eight months ago, the opposition Kadima party led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni [who ran a hard-fought campaign against the current Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in the last Israeli general elections in February 2009, and she continues to be very critical of Netanyahu’s conduct of office].

Halutz’s profile is perfect for making an unofficial [yet somehow official] apology.

The timing and purpose of the press briefing would otherwise seem…vague. He appeared at the press briefing in the company of a professional Public Relations man.

After his meeting with journalists, Haloutz smoked a quick cigarette in the sunshine outside, then turned and quickly bounded up three flights of stone stairs, taking the whole rise two steps at a time. The PR man, also in as good [military-grade] shape, followed one step behind.

A few hours later, the New York Times posted a leaked, advance copy of the “Final” Report commissioned by the UN Secretary-General on how to avoid a repetition of the mayhem and deaths that occurred during the Israeli naval interception on the high seas of a Freedom Flotilla aiming to break the Israeli siege on Gaza. During the pre-dawn Israeli raid on the 600-passenger Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, nine Turkish men [including one Turkish-American high school student] were shot to death.

The UN Report states that all nine appeared to have been unarmed.

The UN report, which the NYTimes posted on its website today here, says that “The events of 31 May 2010 should never have taken place as they did”.

It also says that “The incident and its outcomes were not intended by either Turkey or Israel … But more could have been done to warn the flotilla participants of the potential risks involved and to dissuade them from their actions”.

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