Gaza Flotilla Raid on May 2010, is a good example of a failed military operation and it also shows the limitation of Krav Maga ( hand to hand combat ).
Footage of the instance
Footage of the IDF Krav Maga training
On May 31, 2010, Shayetet 13 took part in Operation Sea Breeze or Operation Sky Winds against a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. The commandos, armed with non-lethal weaponry and 9mm pistols as sidearms, abseiled from helicopters and boarded from speedboats, and apprehended five ships with mostly passive resistance. Aboard the MV Mavi Marmara, the commandos were attacked by dozens of activists armed with knives, iron bars, slingshots and improvised weapons, and allegedly with firearms, including those seized from commandos. Three soldiers were captured, carried below deck, and were temporarily held in a passenger hall. The commandos initially used non-lethal force, but after this proved ineffective, they opened fire with live ammunition and seized control of the ship. Nine activists were killed, and several dozen were wounded. Seven commandos were also wounded, two of them seriously. International condemnation of the action followed.Subsequently, S’13 commandos boarded and seized the aid ship MV Rachel Corrie with no resistance.
1. Group fighting
“You are simply not going to win over a mob.” Plenty of Kung Fu movies instill false ideas of a 1-vs-Many situation. In these films, the Kung Fu master is able to fight 10 – 50 people all by himself easily and effortlessly. As you can see in the footage, it only exists in Hollywood. Shayetet 13 is among the top 3 special forces within the IDF. Members of Shayetet 13 are the finest soldiers IDF can offer and these naval commandos are probably the most aggressive and fearsome of all. One of its unofficial mottos is “When force does not work, use more force.” The Krav Maga training of Shayetet 13 is as brutal as any other spec-op unit, if not more. However, these soldiers are human, just like you and me.
Let’s look at it more closely. A soldier is able to do 5 moves in one second. These moves include most Krav Maga techniques: e.g, elbow, fist, kick, etc. Each member of a mob can do, for example, “about only 3 moves because of sea sickness, lack of training, etc.”
In the film, each soldier was attacked by about 10 -15 mob members at any moment. 15 x 3 = 45 moves, so a soldier can only do 5 moves countering 45 moves by a mob in one second. 5 vs 45. You see why being a Kung Fu master or top Naval commando makes no difference in front of a mob?
2. Space & Environment
Human beings are unable to deal with attacks from all angles. In this instance, the commando fast roped down, and in the middle of the rope he was quickly overwhelmed by the mob. Generally speaking, attacks can come from the front, left, right and rear (4 angles) but most of our senses are only equipped to deal with attacks from the front. Although it might be a mission requirement to fast rope in the middle of the deck, the commandos were unable to use walls and other obstacles to funnel the attackers into a more manageable angle.
3. Use of weapon
It is the saddest thing to see some martial art & Krav Maga instructors instilling false confidence to their students regarding the power of empty hands. IDF soldiers were attacked by metal rods, knives, fists, stones, etc. Every blow is potentially deadly to a human body. In situations like this almost every military and Law Enforcement in Western society allows its members to use deadly force. The idea of using non-lethal devices or Krav Maga to fight off this kind of situation is simply unrealistic and ludicrous.
4. Underestimate the threat
Prior to Shayetet 13’s commandos boarding MV Mavi Marmara, they had boarded several other vessels, and faced no trouble. The commandos were under strict orders not to use lethal force from the higher ups and were doing search with paintball guns and pistols. The situation quickly went out of hand even before the commandos boarded the ships. The mob is swinging the rope which commandos roped from and some of commandos actually fell from the middle of the air. It is unsure if the commandos got complacent because of the previous operations on other ships but the head of operations and the IDF higher up definitely got complacent and underestimated the unpredictability and aggressive nature of these passengers on board. The threat is very real even when you are at overwhelming odds on your side: Navy vs civilian yards, commandos vs civilians.
As one of my instructors Nir Maman ( Krav Maga and Counter Terror specialist ) once said, “The essence and tactics of Krav Maga in IDF is the same as how we shoot, how we clear rooms and deploy in battle ” In North America, many civilian instructors have emphasized too much on the hand-to-hand aspect of Krav Maga and failed to recognize that Israeli Krav Maga mentality is always about using superior weapons over the enemy. “If the enemy has a stick, I have a gun. If the enemy has a gun, I have a tank. If the enemy has a tank, I have my F-15. Krav Maga is not a martial art and is not about fighting equally but a system about neutralizing the threat with superior forces with minimum of losses at your side.”
The Gaza Flotilla Raid is an excellent example of the one time that the IDF underestimated the threats and did not deploy enough forces accordingly. A mistake that almost cost these commandos’ lives. The same can happen to us, so as Krav Maga practitioners we should acknowledge that we are not invulnerable to harm and our tactics can be flawed.
Written By: Borki Ben-Yony
Edited By: Warren Chow