Barak to Commission: 'I Bear Full Responsibility'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak testified before the Turkel Commission on Tuesday, the second senior official to be questioned about the confrontation aboard the Turkish flagship in May.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed after IDF forces received permission aboard the vessel to use their handguns in self-defense.

Barak said he bears "full responsibility" as defense minister for actions carried out by the Israel Defense Forces.

"I take full responsibility for what occurs in the systems subordinate to me," Barak said. "We have an excellent military, chief of staff and soldiers," he said.

Asked if the prime minister's absence affected the way decisions were made, Barak said Netanyahu had given him full responsibility for all facets of the operation before leaving for Canada and the U.S.

The prime minister was on an official visit to Canada when the confrontation occurred and cancelled the following day's visit to the White House to return to Israel.

 "The decision to stop the flotilla, which was made by the prime minister and the seven-minister [security cabinet] forum, was made after a thorough examination of the options available," Barak said.

"During the military briefing, [IDF Chief of General Staff] Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi reiterated his concerns over the conduct of the world media if force was used to stop the flotilla,"

"Ashkenazi stressed it would not be simple, but we would carry out the mission," Barak said.

"The politicians determined the 'what' and the IDF worked out the 'how,'" he said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testified before the committee in an hour-and-a-half public session, followed by another hour of sensitive information not for public purview.

"We anticipated not only the IDF operation to stop the ship, but also the international problem," Netanyahu told the committee on Monday. "I asked the defense minister to coordinate the entire matter," he said.

Barak's testimony confirmed Netanyahu's remarks.

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