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Flotilla raid 'mistakes' admitted

Flawed intelligence-gathering and planning led to Israel's botched and deadly raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla, with security forces underestimating the potential for violence, an official report has concluded.

The report, however, praised the commandos who took part in the operation, saying they were justified in opening fire and killing nine after being confronted by violent pro-Palestinian activists on board one of the ships.

The report concluded that intelligence-gathering was deficient and that various intelligence units did not communicate properly with each other. It criticised the operation's planners for not having a back-up plan in the event of violence.

It did not recommend any dismissals, though it is possible that some senior officers will be ousted or demoted in an ensuing shake-up.

"We found that there were some professional mistakes regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process and some operational mistakes," the report's author, retired general Giora Eiland, told reporters at a defence ministry briefing where declassified sections of the report were discussed.

Some of the mistakes took place at fairly high levels of command, he added, giving few details. The report itself was not made public.

The criticisms that were aired at the briefing - as well as the praise for the soldiers who took part in the raid - have been widely voiced inside Israel since the May 31 raid.

Video footage of Israeli commandos being beaten by the activists on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, coupled with an international outcry over the bloodshed, led Israelis to close ranks around their military.

But the raid also had an effect opposite to the one Israel desired. It focused international attention on the three-year-old blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and forced Israel to ease the movement of goods through land crossings.

Israel's naval blockade on the territory, meant to keep weapons from reaching Hamas militants, remains in place. Later this week the blockade will be challenged again, this time by a Libyan protest ship.

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