Israeli soldiers fired at Gaza-bound aid ships in self-defence, says inquiry

January 24th, 2011 - 2:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Jerusalem, Jan 24 (ANI): The Israel Government-appointed Turkel Commission has claimed that the country’s soldiers opened fire in self-defence during a deadly attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships May 31, 2010 that led to worldwide condemnation.

The Guardian quoted the 280-page report as saying that Israel acted within international law and opened fire to defend itself, in which nine activists were killed.

The report found that Israeli naval commandos were forced to be violent when they boarded the Mavi Marmara and met a group of about 100 “IHH activists” apparently linked to a Turkish organisation that Israel accuses of having links to Hamas, the Islamist organisation that runs Gaza.

“The IHH activists carried out the violence on board the Mavi Marmara by arming themselves with a wide array of weapons, including iron bars, axes, clubs, slingshots, knives and metal objects. These weapons were capable of causing death or serious injury. The IHH activists used firearms against the soldiers, it added,” the paper quoted the report, as saying.

“Overall, the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) personnel acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence,” it added.

However, witnesses on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara has opposed the conclusions.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also rejected the conclusions of the commission, saying it had “no value or credibility”.

The report also claimed that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was attempting to breach, was primarily for security reasons and was imposed lawfully.

Challenging the commission’s conclusion that restrictions were justified for military reasons, Gisha, a Tel Aviv-based rights organisation, has said in a statement that Israel’s primary aim of the restrictions was “to paralyse the economy in Gaza and prevent its residents from leading normal lives”.

The second report from the Turkel Commission, expected later this year, will examine Turkey’s involvement in the flotilla, the IHH, and the identities and intentions of participants. (ANI)

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