Gaza flotilla raid
|Gaza flotilla raid|
MV Mavi Marmara
|Location||International waters of the Mediterranean Sea |
32.64113 N 33.56727 E
|Date||31 May 2010 |
4:30 a.m. (UTC+3)
|Executed by||Israeli Navy|
|Outcome||Seizing control of the ships and detaining the passengers|
|Casualties||9 passengers killed |
Several dozen passengers and seven IDF commandos injured
The Gaza flotilla raid also known as the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010, was a military operation by Israel against six ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" on 31 May 2010 in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.
On 31 May 2010, Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commandos boarded the ships from speedboats and helicopters, to escort the ships to the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection. On the passenger ship MV Mavi Marmara, clashes broke out after activists violently resisted, attacking the Israelis with makeshift weapons and allegedly with live fire. Israeli commandos used both non-lethal weaponry and live fire to suppress the resistance. Nine activists were killed, and dozens of activists and seven Israeli commandos were wounded. On three other ships, activists showed passive resistance, which was suppressed by Israeli forces without deaths or severe injuries, and two others were taken without incident. The ships were subsequently towed to Israel, where all people aboard were detained awaiting deportation.
The operation, code named Operation Sea Breeze or Operation Sky Winds was an attempt to block the Free Gaza Movement's ninth attempt to break the controversial naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Israel proposed inspecting the cargo at the Port of Ashdod and then delivering non-blockaded goods through land crossings, but this proposal was turned down. Israeli forces then raided and seized the Gaza-bound ships in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Israeli Navy warships flanked the flotilla and an aircraft flew overhead after it refused Israeli instructions. Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commandos then abseiled onto the ships from helicopters and boarded from speedboats. They were met with passive resistance on five of the ships, but clashes broke out aboard the MV Mavi Marmara. Nine activists were killed, and dozens were injured. A UNHRC fact-finding mission described six of the nine passengers' deaths as "summary execution" by the Israeli commandos. However, a BBC documentary concluded that Israeli forces had acted in self-defense against a premeditated attack by a group of hardcore IHH activists. Seven Israeli commandos were injured in the skirmish. After seizing control of the ships, Israeli forces towed them to Ashdod and detained the passengers. Both sides place responsibility for the bloodshed on the other, and accounts of the events vary.
The raid prompted widespread international reactions and demonstrations around the world. The United Nations Security Council condemned "those acts resulting in civilian deaths," demanded an impartial investigation of the raid, and called for the immediate release of civilians held by Israel. Israel released all passengers of the flotilla by 6 June 2010. The incident threatened the already deteriorating relations between Turkey and Israel. Turkish president Abdullah Gül described the raid as an attack on Turkey for the first time since World War I.
Israel initially rejected calls from the United Nations and world governments for an international investigation into its raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, but later agreed to cooperate with an investigation conducted by the United Nations. Israel formed the Turkel Committee to investigate the raid. The committee, headed by retired Supreme Court of Israel judge Jacob Turkel, included two international observers. The conclusions of an internal inquiry by the Israel Defense Forces under retired general Giora Eiland were presented to the chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi on 12 July 2010. Eiland's report found that the naval commandos had carried out their duties with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness, and the commanders had exhibited correct decision making. The report further determined that "the use of live fire was justified and that the entire operation was estimable." In August 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. would conduct an investigation of the incident. A separate investigation was conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The findings of this committee, published on 22 September 2010 , called the Israeli operation "disproportionate" and condemned its "unacceptable level of brutality." The UN Human Rights Council had also condemned the raid in June, before its investigation. Another resolution backing the report was passed despite American opposition and EU abstention. Israel accused the UNHRC of a biased, politicized and extremist approach. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the actions of the soldiers as a clear case of self-defense. The Israeli Supreme Court, which rejected several local legal suits against the flotilla raid, wrote in its verdict that "the soldiers were forced to respond in order to defend their lives."
Five shipments had been allowed through prior to the 2008–09 Gaza War, but all shipments following the war were blocked by Israel. This flotilla was the largest to date. An Islamic aid group from Turkey, the İHH (İnsani Yardım Vakfı) (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) sponsored a large passenger ship and two cargo ships.
The ships of Gaza flotilla raid comprised three passenger ships and three cargo ships:
Two other Free Gaza Movement ships, Challenger 2 (USA flagged) and MV Rachel Corrie (Cambodia flagged) were behind the rest of the flotilla due to mechanical problems. There have been claims this was due to Israeli sabotage, though no evidence has been produced. Challenger 2 aborted, but the Rachel Corrie continued its journey.
Three of the flotilla ships carried only passengers and their personal belongings, while three other ships carried 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid, with an estimated value of $20 million. The cargo included food, wheelchairs, books, toys, electricity generators, operating theater equipment medicines, medical equipment, textiles, footwear, cash money, mobility scooters, sofas, and building materials, such as cement, which are prohibited under the Israeli blockade, although Israel offered to allow the cement to enter Gaza, if the flotilla were to dock in Ashdod.
The flotilla was reported to be carrying ballistic vests, gas masks, night-vision goggles, clubs, and slingshots., although the UNHRC report does not mention these items and in the Turkish Report on the Israeli attack on the Humanitarian Aid Convoy to Gaza it states that all passengers and crew as well as the cargo were searched to international standards and no weapons were found, on the ships departing from Turkey.
Two-thirds of the medicines delivered by the flotilla expired between six and fifteen months prior to the raid, and were found to be useless. Some other medicines found on the flotilla were due to expire soon. Additionally, Israel said that much of the cargo, including sensitive medical equipment, was found to have been scattered in the ship's holds, and put in piles rather than packed properly for transport, and consequently damaged. Operating theater equipment, which was supposed to be kept sterile, was carelessly wrapped. The expiring medications and sensistive equipment were kept in frozen storage in the Israeli Defense Ministry before delivery to Gaza.
In previous voyages, Free Gaza vessels carried 140 passengers in total. In this flotilla, over 600 activists were on board the Mavi Marmara alone. There were 663 passengers from 37 nations on board the flotilla. Notable people aboard the flotilla included Denis Halliday former UN Assistant Secretary-General, Edward Peck former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania and Joe Meadors a survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Israeli-Arab member of Knesset Haneen Zoubi, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel Raed Salah, Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, convicted hijacker Erdinç Tekir, who participated in the Black Sea hijacking, and a number of parliamentarians from European and Arab national legislatures and the European Parliament.
According to an early IDF press release, the ship carried 75 mercenaries with links to al-Qaeda and other terror organizations, who carried $10,000 apiece on their persons, The claim was never substantiated and was later withdrawn. Israel has said that the group boarded separately in a different city and went on deck under different procedures. The Turkish Customs officials and the İHH denied the allegations.
The impending arrival of the fleet was known to Israel government, military intelligence and press. Israel said that the flotilla was violating international law, but one of the flotilla's organizers, Greta Berlin, stated that "[w]e have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza". Israel informed the fleet that it would be redirected to the port of Ashdod and the cargo would be transferred to Gaza after undergoing a security inspection. Foreigners would be deported or, if they did not willingly agree to be deported, detained.
The flotilla organisers rejected Israel's demand, as it did not believe that Israel would transfer the cargo to Gaza, and said that, "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians... We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of Gaza and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation."
The UNHRC fact-finding mission noted a "certain tension between the political objectives of the flotilla and its humanitarian objectives", which came to light "the moment the Government of Israel made offers to allow the humanitarian aid to be delivered via Israeli ports but under the supervision of a neutral organization". It also announced that Gaza did not have a deep sea port capable of receiving the sort of cargo ships participating in the flotilla. It concluded that "whilst the mission is satisfied that the flotilla constituted a serious attempt to bring essential humanitarian supplies into Gaza, it seems clear that the primary objective was political, as indeed demonstrated by the decision of those on board the Rachel Corrie to reject a Government of Ireland-sponsored proposal that the cargo in that ship be allowed through Ashdod intact".
Some supporters of the flotilla said that "a violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade." Two of the activists (Ali Haydar Bengi and Ibrahim Bilgen) who died during the MV Mavi Marmara clash had previously said that they wished for martydom. On 29 May, Aljazeera broadcast footage of Mavi Marmara activists participating in a chant calling for battle against Jews.
Former U.S. Marine Kenneth O'Keefe, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, stated that the activists knew from the outset that there would be no passive resistance. "I knew that if the Israelis boarded that ship, it would be a disaster...You have to be an idiot to board that ship and think it will be a ship of passive resistance," he told Haaretz newspaper.
In a public address in October 2010 on Al-Aqsa TV, Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Maqri, Head of Moroccan and Algerian Delegation to the Gaza Convoy, stated, according to a translation published by MEMRI, that "the mujahideen have told us that they decided not to defeat the oppressive Jews by gunfire, but instead, by daggers."
Six of the eight ships set out on 30 May 2010 from international waters off the coast of Cyprus; the remaining two were delayed by mechanical problems. "We do not even have a jackknife here, but we will not let Israeli soldiers on board this ship," İHH leader Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım told reporters via a live video stream before the convoy set sail.
The government of Cyprus refused to cooperate with the Free Gaza Movement or allow activists to sail from its harbors. The Cyprus Police stated that "anything related to the trip to Gaza is not permitted," and as a result remaining MPs and activists embarked instead from Famagusta in Northern Cyprus. Cypriot and Greek MPs and activists refused to embark via ports in Northern Cyprus. Having been delayed by two days, the flotilla aimed to reach Gaza on the afternoon of 31 May.
Pre-raid sabotage rumors
The IDF or the Mossad may have sabotaged three of the ships before the raid. According to the National Post, Israeli deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai hinted that Israel had exhausted covert means of stalling the vessels. He said: "Everything was considered. I don't want to elaborate beyond that, because the fact is there were not up to 10, or however many ships were [originally] planned." A senior IDF officer hinted to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the that some of the vessels had been tampered with to halt them far from the Gaza or Israeli coast. According to UPI press coverage, the officer alluded to "grey operations" against the flotilla and said that no such action had been taken against the Mavi Marmara out of fear that the vessel might be stranded in the middle of the sea, endangering the people on board. Israel was accused of sabotaging activist ships in the past but no evidence has been found to back up these claims.
Three ships - the Rachel Corrie, the Challenger I and the Challenger II - suffered damage or malfunction. While the Challenger I was able to continue, the Challenger II had to turn back halfway through the journey and Rachel Corrie docked for repairs in Malta. Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement said that electric wires may have been tampered with.
A few minutes after 9:00 P.M., two missile boats and the Sa'ar 5-class corvette INS Lahav left Haifa naval base to intercept the flotilla. The three warships had speedboats, Black Hawk helicopters, and Shayetet 13 commandos on board. The Israeli Navy made initial contact with the flotilla at 11 p.m. (2000 UTC) on 30 May, about 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Gaza, 80 miles (130 km) off the coast of southern Lebanon, in international waters, ordering the ships to follow them to port or otherwise be boarded. while in international waters about 80 miles (130 km) out to sea.
The Israeli Navy radioed Tural Mahmut, the captain of the Mavi Marmara, sending him this message: "Mavi Marmara, you are approaching an area of hostilities, which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza coastal area and Gaza Harbour are closed to all maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in Gaza Strip and invites you to enter Ashdod port. Delivery of supplies will be in accordance with the authorities' regulations and through the formal land crossing to Gaza and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports aboard the vessels on which you arrived." The reply was: "Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza." Shortly after, two naval vessels flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance, and an Israeli aircraft flew overhead.
Five days after the raid, IDF released an audio recording purporting to be of a radio exchange between the Israeli Navy and the flotilla. After Israeli warnings that the ships were approaching a blockade, voices responded "Go back to Auschwitz!" and "Don't forget 9/11". Denis Healey, the captain of Challenger I, and activist Huwaida Arraf who was on the bridge of the ship, disputed the authenticity of the recording. Israel conceded that it was impossible to trace who made the comments, or from which ship, because they were made on an open channel. An Israeli journalist who was on board an IDF ship confirmed the IDF accounts.
The Israeli commandos who participated in the operation underwent a month of training prior to the operation, including dummy takeovers of a ship at sea with fifty soldiers performing the role of activists. The Israeli Navy claimed that the soldiers were trained for "a Bil'in-type opposition". Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran Israeli correspondent aboard the Israeli missile boat INS Victory reported that the assessment was that the passengers would show "light resistance and possibly minor violence". The soldiers were armed with paintball guns possibly containing skin irritants, stun grenades, tasers, and pistols as sidearms. The soldiers had orders to confront protesters and peacefully convince the them to give up, and if not successful, to use non-lethal force to commandeer the ship. They were instructed to use their sidearms only in an emergency, when their lives were at risk.
Hours before the raid, the head of the İHH, Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım declared, "We’re going to defeat the Israeli commandos–we’re declaring it now. If you bring your soldiers here, we will throw you off the ship and you’ll be humiliated in front of the whole world." Later, according to the crew of the ship, a group of about 40 İHH activists took over the ship.
Mavi Marmara boarding
The boarding of the Mavi Marmara started in the early morning at 4:30 IST. The operation began with an attempt to board the ship from speedboats. As the boats approached, activists fired water hoses at them, and pelted them with a variety of objects. The Israelis replied with paintballs and stun grenades. One stun grenade was picked up and tossed back into a boat, When the commandos tried boarding the ship, activists cut the ladders with electric disc saws. The boats then turned slightly away from the ship, but remained close.
The IDF then sent in a Black Hawk helicopter with a 15-man assault team on board. According to the IDF, the commandos fired warning shots and dropped stun grenades prior to abseiling onto the ship. Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, who was on the ship, stated that the Israelis fired live rounds from the helicopter before any Israeli soldiers were on the deck, and that he saw one man shot in the head and others wounded by live fire. The UNHRC report on the incident concluded that the Israelis were firing live rounds from the helicopter before they landed anyone on the ship. Mavi Marmara's passengers reported gunfire, blue flares and deafening noise from the first helicopter at this time. Robert Mackey of The New York Times suggested that the passengers on the ship may have mistaken the flash grenades and paintball guns for deadly weapons, which enraged them. Activists and crew members reportedly used gas masks.
A rope was then dropped from the helicopter onto the ship, but three activists seized it and tied it to the deck. A second rope was immediately dropped, and the soldiers abseiled onto the deck, but were met with resistance by activists armed with makeshift weapons. The first team of four commandos was immediately attacked. The team leader was quickly subdued, and the fourth commando saw his team leader on the deck, with a Turkish activist holding the pistol he had grabbed from him and pointing it to his head. The soldier then jumped from the rope and shot the activist twenty seconds after the first soldier landed on the deck. Two Israeli commandos had their guns wrested away, and commandos reported that there was live fire against them. According to the IDF, the second soldier to descend from the first helicopter was shot in the stomach. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that activists seized three grenades from soldiers. The Israeli commandos responded with their paintball guns and stun grenades. According to activists, the IDF used rubber bullets. An activist also said that the paintballs contained shards of glass.
Three Israeli commandos were thrown onto a lower deck and captured. The first captured soldier was abseiling from the helicopter when he was attacked by ten men before his feet hit the deck. He was beaten across his body and head, and eventually picked up and thrown to the lower deck, where he was attacked by a dozen activists, who beat and choked him, removed his bulletproof vest and sidearm and smashed his helmet, and was shoved into a passenger hall below deck. The second soldier was surrounded by a team of fifteen to twenty activists when he landed on the ship's roof. The activists seized his gun and beat him as he attempted to fight them off with his back to the hull. After about two minutes, he was picked up by his arms and legs, and was thrown over the hull despite attempts to resist. He attempted to hang on to the hull with both hands, but was eventually forced to let go by activists beating his hands and other activists below pulling him down by his legs. He was then surrounded by another group of activists, stabbed in the stomach, and was dragged into a lounge while being beaten every time he resisted. A third soldier who was lowered onto the deck saw an activist waiting to attack him with an iron crowbar. After shoving him away, he was attacked by four more activists, one of whom wrapped a chain around his neck and choked him until he lost consciousness as he attempted to fight them off. He was then thrown onto the bridge deck, where he was attacked by about twenty activists, who beat him and cut away his equipment, and dragged him into the lounge. The three soldiers were severely wounded and bleeding heavily. Two of the soldiers' hands were tied, and a third was unconscious and went into convulsions. During their captivity, they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and photographed and filmed. One of the soldiers claimed that he was beaten after he began moving and yelling that one of the soldiers needed a doctor, and another said that he was placed onto a couch, beaten, and threatened that he would be beaten every time he moved. Although radical activists attempted to harm them further, more moderate passengers intervened and protected the soldiers. Two were given water and one with a severe stomach wound was given a gauze pad. Hasan Huseyin Uysal, a Turkish doctor, cleaned the blood off their faces and tended to facial cuts.
After the third soldier was thrown from the roof, the commandos requested and received permission to use live fire. The soldiers then opened fire with pistols, and activists dispersed to the front and back of the roof after taking casualties. An IDF medical officer on board located a secure spot, and oversaw treatment of injured soldiers. A second helicopter carrying 12 soldiers arrived over the ship. As the helicopter approached, activists attacked the IDF commandos, who repulsed them with gunshots aimed at their legs. At the same time, the speedboats trailing the ship approached again. They were met with a barrage of objects, including iron balls from slingshots, and allegedly with a burst of gunfire, forcing the boats to pull back again.
Soldiers from the second helicopter successfully slid down and began moving towards the front of the roof to reinforce control of the ship. They were attacked by passengers, but dispersed them with shots towards their legs. The soldiers attempted to secure the lower decks, but were met with violent resistance, allegedly including live fire. Shortly afterward, a third helicopter arrived, carrying 14 soldiers. They successfully abseiled onto the ship, and the commander from the third helicopter met up with the commander from the second helicopter, after which the forces began moving towards the ship's bridge. They were attacked twice by activists, and opened fire. The commandos reached the bridge after thirty minutes, and took command. Upon orders from the soldiers, the captain instructed all activists to enter their cabins. At this stage, most of the activists assembled on the sides of the ship retreated into the hull. The speedboats approached for a third time, and most of the remaining activists again hurled objects at the boats. Soldiers inside the boats then opened fire, taking careful aim to hit the resisting passengers and forcing the activists to disperse, enabling the soldiers to board from ladders. The soldiers were met with resistance, and responded with live fire. They managed to fight their way to the roof, where they met up with the rest of the force. An assessment was made, and three soldiers were found to be missing. A force was prepared to rush the passenger halls and locate the soldiers. According to the IDF, soldiers spotted activists escorting the three captive soldiers onto the deck. One of the captive soldiers claimed that the activist guarding him waved to one of the IDF naval vessels to show that they were holding Israeli soldiers. At that point, he elbowed the activist in the ribs and jumped into the water, although the guard tried to hold him back. A second soldier also jumped into the water, while the third remained unconscious on the deck. IDF soldiers dispersed the activists with non-lethal weapons, and rescued the unconscious soldier, while the two soldiers in the water were picked up by the naval vessels. According to some accounts by activists and journalists, however, the soldiers were released after negotiations mediated by Haneen Zoabi, in which the IDF agreed to airlift the wounded in exchange for their release.
All of the passengers were then taken one-by-one from their cabins and onto the external decks, where they were searched. Most of the passengers were then handcuffed and forced to kneel for hours. Some women, elderly men, and western nationals were either temporarily handcuffed or uncuffed shortly afterward, and were allowed to sit on the benches. During the course of the journey to Ashdod port, passengers were brought inside and allowed to sit down. According to the UN fact-finding mission, passengers were subject to various forms of abuse.
IDF Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi testified to Israel's Turkel Commission that the IDF had fired 308 live rounds and about 350 bean bag rounds and paintballs. An aide to the general said that that 70 of these shots were aimed to cause injury, while the others would have been warning shots. IDF Major-General Giora Eiland said that the IDF had found evidence of four instances of soldiers coming under fire from activists, and that in at least one case, the fire came from weapons that were not stolen from commandos.
The operation to take the Sfendoni took place at the same time as the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. The Sfendoni attempted to evade Israeli naval vessels. According to one soldier, the ship attempted to run down his vessel, and chased it after it evaded, but the IDF vessel made a sharp turn and positioned itself behind it. Speedboats approached the ship, and soldiers climbed onto the ship from ladders after firing plastic bullets, paintballs, and stun grenades. Some soldiers were shoved down a ladder onto the lower deck, where a group of passengers scuffled with soldiers, and an attempt was made to take a soldiers' weapon. Once on board, the soldiers advanced towards the bridge. A number of activists formed a human chain to block them, and the Israelis responded with electric shocks. Retired diplomat Edward Peck, who was on board the Sfendoni, said that the commandos were well-trained, and behaved reasonably well. When two soldiers entered the bridge, an activist grabbed the wheel tightly and protested that the boat was in international waters. A scuffle then ensued between soldiers and a few activists. The soldiers used physical force, electric shocks, and stun grenades to gain control, but there were no major injuries. Paul Larudee, a 64-year-old former linguistics professor from El Cerrito, California onboard the Sfendoni, was beaten and tased according to his family who said that Israeli consular officials informed them that Larudee, a pacifist, was beaten after refusing to follow the orders of troops.
When the boat was under Israeli control, activists were made to sit down and restrained with plastic ties. One man who complained that the plastic ties were too tight had them removed, then ran and jumped overboard, and was picked up by another boat. Passengers were searched one-by-one and then taken to the main salon. They were allowed to prepare food, but refused to eat until an IDF cameraman ceased filming them.
Free Mediterranean boarding
Swedish author Henning Mankell reported that the capture of the Free Mediterranean took place about an hour after the raid on the Mavi Marmara. Israeli soldiers boarded the ship from three speedboats, and managed to bypass barbed wire that had been placed around the ship. The passengers formed a human ring on the bridge to block the soldiers, and Israeli troops responded by using physical force, electric shocks, plastic and rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas. A reporter for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Israeli soldiers approached unarmed civilians with guns drawn and shot a 65 year old person with an electroshock weapon from a distance of ten centimeters. All of the passengers were handcuffed and subjected to body searches and had their passports confiscated. Those who refused to cooperate were reportedly met with physical force.
Challenger 1 boarding
The Challenger 1 accelerated its course in an attempt to allow journalists onboard to broadcast their photos of the ongoing raid. The ship was intercepted by two Israeli speedboats and a helicopter, and carried out evasion tactics, forcing the Israelis to pursue it for a considerable distance. According to passengers, at least one stun grenade was launched at the Challenger 1 before it was boarded. Passengers on the decks formed a human chain to block the path of the troops. Soldiers opened fire with paintball guns and rubber and plastic bullets as they boarded the vessel, lightly injuring two female demonstrators. Once on board, the Israelis moved towards the fly bridge. The soldiers encountered verbal abuse, and attempts were made to shove soldiers. Some activists barricaded themselves in cabins. Activist Huwaida Arraf reported that Israeli soldiers attacked those who tried to block them with kicks, tasers, and concussion grenades, and that some people were beaten so severely that they had to be hospitalized. Arraf said that the Israelis smashed her face against the ground and stepped on it, and that they later handcuffed her and put a bag over her head. Another woman similarly had a bag placed over her head. First mate Shane Dillon reported that Israeli troops broke the nose of a Belgian woman and beat another passenger. Australian photojournalist Kate Geraghty was tasered while attempting to photograph the raid. Upon entering the bridge, the troops were met with no resistance.
Passengers were then handcuffed with plastic ties. Activist Huwaida Arraf reported that Israeli troops confiscated communication equipment, cameras and memory cards from activists. Upon entering Ashdod port, several passengers joined hands and refused to disembark, protesting that they had been brought to Israel against their will from international waters. Two female passengers were handcuffed and forcibly removed, while a male passenger was threatened with a taser.
Gazze 1 boarding
The Gazze 1 was boarded by soldiers from speedboats. Passengers and crew on board offered no resistance, and the ship was commandeered without incident. Passengers were ordered onto the deck while dogs searched the ship, and were later taken to the dining hall and bodysearched. They were not handcuffed, and provided with food during the journey to Ashdod.
Defne Y boarding
Israeli commandos abseiled from a helicopter onto the Defne Y. The ship's crane had been positioned in such a way as to make it hard or impossible to abseil onto the deck, forcing troops to descend directly to the roof, endangering their lives. Soldiers met no physical resistance as they secured the ship, but reportedly encountered verbal abuse. Passengers cooperated with the soldiers, were not handcuffed, and kept in their cabins during the trip to Ashdod. An İHH cameraman onboard the Defne Y claimed to have been beaten and interrogated for five hours over a hidden videotape.
Nine activists were killed in the raid: Cengiz Akyüz (42), Ali Haydar Bengi (39), İbrahim Bilgen (61), Furkan Doğan (19), Cevdet Kılıçlar (38), Cengiz Songür (47), Çetin Topçuoğlu (53), Fahri Yaldız (43), and Necdet Yıldırım (32). Most of the dead were members of, or volunteers for the İHH.
The bodies of activists were taken to Israel aboard a missile boat, and held in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, where an external examination was carried out. The dead were flown to Turkey on 2 June. Autopsies performed in Turkey showed that eight of the nine killed had died of 9mm gunshot wounds, with one death from an unnamed atypical round. Five had gunshot wounds to the head and at least four were shot from both back and front. According to the UNHRC report, six were the victims of "summary executions," including two shot after they were severely injured.
The İHH reported that the bodies had been washed before their return to Turkey. This removed gunpowder residue and made it hard to determine the shooting distance. According to the organization, the dead had been shot from up above and it was possible to determine which weapons were used. The nine were shot 30 times in total. Dr. Haluk Ince, the director of Istanbul's Medical Examination Institute, said that "from the analysis of the bullet distance on one of the bodies, the gun was fired between 2 and 14 centimeters' distance from the victim's head." Doğan was shot five times from less than 45 cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.
A funeral service for eight of the dead was held at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on 3 June. The dead were taken to their hometowns, where they were buried in individual funerals. The last funeral was held at Beyazıt Mosque in Istanbul on 4 June, with the dead activist being buried in Istanbul.
Furkan Doğan, 19, was born in Troy, New York to Turkish parents, and moved to Turkey at age two. He lived in Kayseri, and was according to some sources a dual citizen of the United States and Turkey, although most sources claim that he was a Turkish permanent resident, and a U.S. citizen only. İbrahim Bilgen, 61, was born in Batman, to a family of Iraqi immigrants. He was a politician of the Felicity Party, previously the Virtue Party, which he had helped found, until it was banned for its Islamism. Bilgen was a longtime resident of Siirt, and was candidate for Mayor during the Turkish local elections, 2009. He was a married father of six. Ali Haydar Bengi, a Kurdish man from Diyarbakır, was the chairman of Aydınlık Yarınlar İçin Hak ve Özgürlükler Eğitim Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği (AYDER), and a graduate of Al-Azhar University. He owned a telephone repair shop in Diyarbakır, and was married and a father of four. Cevdet Kılıçlar was a journalist and website manager for the İHH from Kayseri. He was a correspondent for numerous Islamist newspapers. He briefly migrated to Germany after Turkish security forces had raided the offices of one of his newspapers, before returning to Turkey, where he continued his journalism, and was involved in Lifeline 3. Çetin Topçuoğlu was a taekwondo coach and champion, an amateur soccer player, and also served as a national judge for Adana Province. He lived in Adana. He had previously participated in Lifeline 3. Necdet Yıldırım was a member of the İHH from Malatya, and worked at a sports association in Istanbul. Fahri Yaldız was a firefighter and security guard for İHH conferences. He lived in Adıyaman, where he worked as a bodyguard for the Mayor. Cengiz Songür was a textile salesman from İzmir active in , an Islamist organization. Cengiz Akyüz was a decorator and İHH activist from İskenderun.
The raid also left dozens of activists wounded. Dr. Hazem Farouq, a dentist and Egyptian MP from the Muslim Brotherhood said passengers could not find first aid and did not have material to treat wounds. After the takeover of the ship, injured activists were taken to the roof and treated by IDF medical personnel. According to an IDF doctor, no wounded activists died after they began receiving treatment. Triage was performed in accordance with objective medical criteria, with the result that some activists were treated before soldiers. Israeli Air Force helicopters airlifted thirty-one of the wounded to Israel for emergency treatment. Another 24 injured passengers were diagnosed at Ashdod port and sent to hospitals. A total of fifty-five activists were admitted to the Israeli hospitals of Hadassah, Sheba, Rambam, Rabin, and Barzilai. Nine of the activists were in severe condition, and some underwent surgery at Rambam and Sheba hospitals. Several patients were transferred from Rabin Medical Center to Israel Prison Service medical facilities. The Turkish government sent Turkish Red Crescent personnel to Israel to treat the injured. In the following days, most patients were airlifted to Turkey after their conditions stabilized. The Turkish Airlines aircraft transporting them landed at a Turkish Air Force base, after which the injured were taken by ambulance to hospital. Two seriously injured activists remained in an Israeli hospital receiving treatment from Turkish Red Crescent personnel, as their condition was judged too severe to fly them home. Both men were flown to Turkey on 4 June, still in life-threatening condition, and were taken to Atatürk Hospital. On 6 June, a wounded Indonesian cameraman was transferred from a hospital in Israel for medical treatment in Amman before being taken back to Indonesia.
In addition to activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, some of the passengers on the five other ships were injured from beatings and less-lethal weaponry, and were hospitalized in Israel.
According to testimonies of IDF personnel, several wounded activists refused treatment, stating that they would prefer to die as shaheeds. An IDF doctor testified that in a number of cases wounded activists tried to hamper treatment by removing and tearing off medical equipment, and a high-ranking naval officer testified that some of the wounded were unwilling to leave the lounge where they were laying, and that the ship's doctor had told him that there were many wounded individuals who refused to be evacuated, some of them severely injured. Some activists tried to physically block troops from reaching the wounded. IDF soldiers eventually evacuated the activists against their will in order to save their lives.
According to some accounts by passengers, IDF soldiers denied medical treatment to several wounded activists who died shortly thereafter.
Israel reported that seven soldiers were injured in the clash. Four soldiers were moderately wounded, of which two were initially in critical condition, and an additional three soldiers were lightly wounded. Two of the injured soldiers sustained gunshot wounds, with one soldier shot in the knee and the other in the abdomen, in addition to other injuries. Some of the soldiers were also stabbed. All of the injured soldiers were beaten. One soldier was unconscious for 45 minutes due to head and neck injuries, and another suffered a broken arm.
Two of the injured soldiers who were rescued after jumping overboard were taken to Israel by sea, while the remaining injured soldiers were treated by IDF medical personnel aboard the Mavi Marmara and airlifted to Israel by helicopter. The Israeli commandos wounded in the raid were taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where some required surgery. While in hospital, the soldiers were visited by hundreds of people, including military officials and politicians.
Conclusion of raid
Investigation for on-board weapons
The Israeli military said that in addition to medical aid and construction materials, they found knives, clubs, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks, and night vision goggles aboard the Mavi Marmara. A statement released by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel claimed that violence against the soldiers was pre-planned, and that "light weaponry" was found on the ships, including pistols that had been seized from IDF commandos. Israel stated that the naval forces "found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces." IDF photos displayed daggers, kitchen and pocket knives, metal and wooden poles, flares, wrenches and slingshots with marble projectiles said to have been used against the soldiers. The activists were said to have also lobbed stun grenades at IDF soldiers, and the IDF furnished video reflecting this. An activist said that it would have been impossible to have firearms on board because "all the boats were carefully inspected by the government before they left the port of departure." Turkish officials supported the activists' account, stating that every passenger that had left Turkey had been searched with X-ray machines and metal detectors before boarding. Senior officials in the Customs Undersecretariat called the Israeli statements tantamount to "complete nonsense".
On 4 June Walla! reported that a senior IDF officer interviewed by Kol Israel radio, said that activists threw weapons and firearms into the sea, and that bullet casings that do not match IDF firearms were found on the ship. Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım said activists had rushed some of the soldiers and snatched their weapons, but had thrown them overboard without using them.
Release of footage
The IDF released nearly 20 videos of the incident. Both sides were described as lacking context and confusing the issue of who initiated hostilities The videos were taken from Israeli Naval vessels and helicopters using night-vision technology. The videos appeared to show activists hitting soldiers with metal pipes and a chair. A video also showed a soldier being pushed off deck by activists and thrown onto a lower deck headfirst. One video shows each commando being attacked by metal pipes and bats as he was lowered by helicopter. Other videos show activists beating one of the soldiers and trying to kidnap him. One video that displays the clashes shows one soldier firing a weapon shaped like a paintball gun. The IDF also released footage of the wounded being treated and airlifted.
The IDF also showed confiscated footage from the ship's surveillance cameras, which displayed activists preparing for a clash hours before the Israeli Navy made contact with the ship. Footage confiscated from activists also shows them breaking off railings to be used against soldiers prior to the clash. Activist footage showed soldiers boarding from speedboats being attacked with numerous objects including a stun grenade and with water hoses, showed activists attacking soldiers as they rappelled down, and showed one soldier being beaten several times with a metal pipe and then stabbed in the arm. Other videos shot by activists also showed casualties being evacuated below deck, and being treated for wounds.
A video shot on board by documentary maker Iara Lee showed the captain of the boat announcing over the public address system, "Stop your resistance ... They are using live ammunition ... Be calm, be very calm." Gunshots are heard. At the end a woman shouts, "We have no guns here, we are civilians taking care of injured people. Don't use violence, we need help." One of the activists shows the camera a waterproofed booklet allegedly taken from the Israeli commandos listing the names, with photos, of several key people among the passengers. Lee says the video was smuggled off the ship in her underwear due to the Israeli confiscation of all photographic and film material.
Detention of activists
Following the boardings, Israeli naval forces towed the flotilla's vessels to Ashdod, from where the activists were taken into custody by authorities, pending deportation.
"About 629" activists were detained by the Israel Prisons Service, after they refused to sign deportation orders. A Turkish mother who had brought her one-year-old child with her agreed to extradition after she was advised that prison conditions were "too harsh" for her baby. Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin described the arrests as "kidnapping" and questioned the logic of bringing the detainees to Israel only to deport them there, instead of giving them "unconditional release". 480 activists were detained and 48 were deported immediately. Reacting to intensifying international criticism of the raid, Israeli officials announced that all 680 activists held would be released, including two dozen Israel had threatened earlier to prosecute, charging they had assaulted its troops. Israel began releasing activists on June 1. On June 2, 124 activists were deported to Jordan and another 200 were taken to Ben Gurion International Airport and flown out of the country. The Israeli military said there were a total of 718 passengers on flotilla; the last one was released by 6 June 2010.
A group of thirteen female activists attacked Immigration Authority personnel accompanying them to the airport for deportation. The activists began to yell and curse while in the police bus taking them to the airport, cursing officers and Israel. When they arrived at the airport, two attacked an officer, trying to push, slap and scratch him while shouting "free Palestine" and "Israel is a terror state". The two were eventually restrained by several officers. According to flotilla activist Fintan Lan Ken, an Irish-American passenger was beaten by security officials at the airport before boarding and had to be hospitalized. Some activists were allegedly beaten by security officials at the airport.
Arab Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi was released on June 1. She attempted to address the Knesset, but was verbally abused by other lawmakers, who told her to "go to Gaza, traitor." She received multiple death threats by phone and mail, and was placed under armed protection after nearly 500 people signed up to a Facebook page calling for her execution. The Knesset subsequently revoked her parliamentary privileges as a punitive measure, and there were calls for her prosecution.
Four other Israeli Arabs who participated in the flotilla were detained and later released on bail. On June 3, the Ashkelon Magistrates' Court accepted an appeal for their release with bail, under the conditions that they remain under house arrest until June 8, and do not leave the country for 45 days.
Some the activists claimed they were beaten during interrogations. Mattias Gardell also said there was sleep deprivation and that he was beaten several times. They also said that treatment depended on their skin colour, ethnicity and if they had a Muslim sounding name. One activist said they were not allowed to contact lawyers and were videotaped throughout. According to Henning Mankell, Israeli authorities confiscated their money, credit cards, mobile phones, laptops, cameras, and personal belongings including clothes. They were only allowed to keep papers. Several passengers had charges made to their confiscated debit cards and cell phones. Israel pledged to investigate the issue. An IDF officer and three soldiers were subsequently arrested by Israeli Military Police and charged with stealing laptops and cell phones from passengers.
Delivery of cargo
Israel said humanitarian aid confiscated from the ships would be transferred to Gaza, but that it would not transfer banned items such as cement. At the same briefing, they said that they found construction equipment, including concrete and metal rods, that were not allowed into Gaza. The IDF said that all of the equipment on board was examined and none of it was in shortage in Gaza. According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, Hamas refused to allow the humanitarian aid into Gaza until Israeli authorities released all flotilla detainees and allowed building materials, which are thought to make up 8,000 of the 10,000 tons of the goods, to reach them. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, "We are not seeking to fill our (bellies), we are looking to break the Israeli siege on Gaza."
Israeli newspapers commented that the situation must not be all that bad if Palestinians refused the aid. Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan responded: "We will not take any blood stained aid," and "If we accept the delivery of aid then we are legitimizing Israel's violent actions." Yet allowing: "If the Turks ask us to let the aid shipments in, we would do it."
On 17 June 2010, Palestinian authorities accepted the delivery of the cargo under UN supervision and coordination. However, Israel stated it "will not transfer to Gaza the weapons and military equipment it had found aboard the Mavi Marmara."
Return of ships
At midday of 31 May 2010 Israeli Navy tugboats towed ships of the aid convoy to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the ships were impounded by Israeli authorities. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen requested "the immediate release of the detained civilians and ships held by Israel." Of the seven ships detained in Israel, three of the Turkish owned ships were unconditionally returned. The Israeli Defense Ministry reported that two of the remaining four ships were claimed, but proof of ownership wasn't provided. Nobody claimed ownership of the remaining two ships, and Israel tried to locate the owners.
On 31 May Israeli P.M. Netanyahu asked US President Barack Obama to veto any UN Security Council condemnation of Israel, but the president refused. At the UN Security Council, the US did however block demands for an international inquiry into the raid (similar to Richard Goldstone's inquiry into the Gaza war) and the criticism of Israel for allegedly violating international law, as proposed by Turkey, the Palestinians, and Arab nations.
On 2 June, Israel released over 600 of the detained activists. On 4 June, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a decision of attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein to halt the police investigation of the incident. On 5 June, the Israeli government's press division apologized for circulating a link to the satiric "We Con the World" video that mocked activists on board, satirizing their purportedly peaceful intentions. On 13 June, Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a trip to France amidst threats of charges against Barak and other Israeli officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction. On 16 June, Israel added İHH to its terror watch list.
Egypt opened its Rafah Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter following international criticism of the raid and a call for the border to be opened by Hamas's leader Khaled Meshaal. It is not clear how long it will remain open. According to an Egyptian security source, construction materials such as concrete and steel are still required to be transported via Israel's border crossings.
On 4 June, a Turkish state-run news agency reported a possible trial against Israel in which the Turkish autopsy report would be used as evidence. On 29 June the İHH claimed that the attack on the flotilla was planned. Lawyers representing the Turkish victims and IHH wrote to Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking to prosecute the Israelis involved. Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, the lawyer said the Mavi Marmara was sailing under flag of the Comoros Islands and many Turks were on board, and both these countries were signatories.
In Israel, the Israel Police and Israel Prison Service were placed on high alert throughout the country, residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip were ordered to prepare their bomb shelters, and a number of checkpoints were set up along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. The IDF placed units along the northern and southern borders on alert, and called up reservists. Roads towards the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and other controversial areas were blocked by police. Israeli-Arabs called a general strike in response to the flotilla raid.
The UN Security Council condemned "those acts which resulted in the loss of lives" and called for a prompt investigation conforming to international standards. The UN Human Rights Council called the attack outrageous and dispatched a fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law. Unofficial responses included civilian demonstrations in Malaysia and Lebanon. There were also some rallies in support of Israel. British Prime Minister David Cameron described the "Israeli attack" as "completely unacceptable."
Israel–Turkey relations reached a low point after the incident. Turkey recalled its ambassador, cancelled joint military exercises, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harshly referred to the raid as a "bloody massacre" and "state terrorism", and harshly criticized Israel in a speech before the Grand National Assembly. The Turkish Grand National Assembly held a debate on whether to impose sanctions on Israel, and eventually came out with a statement criticizing the attack as illegal, demanding that Israel apologize, pay compensation, and prosecute those involved, and calling on the Turkish government to review ties with Israel and take "effective measures". The flotilla raid was among the issues discussed during a security meeting of Turkish military commanders chaired by Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Several entertainers canceled appearances in Israel. Iran's Red Crescent organised an aid shipment that was called off after being informed that Egypt would prevent it from passing through the Suez Canal. B. Lynn Pascoe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, cautioned "such convoys were not helpful in resolving Gaza’s basic economic problems and needlessly carried the potential for escalation". "Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes," the United Nations spokesman said, prior to new Lebanese ships sailing to Gaza on 23 July 2010, "There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza." Israel's United Nations Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said in letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about new Gaza-bound ships: "Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the ... naval blockade".
The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, a Libyan charity organization headed by Saif al-Islam Muammar Al-Gaddafi, chartered the MV Amalthea to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The ship carried food, medical supplies and pre-fabricated houses and docked at the port of El Arish, Egypt on 14 July from where the supplies were reportedly to be taken to Gaza by road. The humanitarian aid and supplies were donated by Greek companies and charities.
Easing of Gaza blockade
Following the raid, Israel faced mounting international calls to ease or lift its blockade. On June 17, Israeli Prime Minister's Office announced a decision to relax the blockade. This announcement received a cool response from the international community.
Three days later, Israel's Security Cabinet approved a new system governing the blockade that would allow practically all non-military or dual-use items to enter the Gaza strip. Israel stated it would expand the transfer of construction materials designated for projects that have been approved by the Palestinian Authority as well as projects that are under international supervision. Despite the easing of the land blockade, Israel announced that it would continue to inspect at the port of Ashdod all goods bound for Gaza by sea. Internationally, this decision received mixed reactions.
As of November 2010, Israel has failed to satisfy the commitment it made in June to ease its blockade of the Gaza strip, according to Catherine Ashton, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Ashton announced that inadequate amounts of goods are entering Gaza to meet Gaza's humanitarian and reconstruction needs. Ashton also called for Israel to permit entry of construction material that UNRWA requested to rebuild schools and to Israel to allow exports from Gaza.
Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, reiterated his demands for a United Nations investigation. He said: "We have no trust at all that Israel, a country that has carried out such an attack on a civilian convoy in international waters, will conduct an impartial investigation. To have a defendant acting simultaneously as both prosecutor and judge is not compatible with any principle of law."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on June 5 that the IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara should be investigated by a New Zealand-led committee, with Israeli and Turkish deputies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped the Israeli-led process would put an end to efforts in the United Nations to set up an international inquiry, which many Israelis fear would be biased. In Israel and around the world, some said the committee lacked sufficient credibility and investigative powers. White House backed Israeli internal inquiry into Gaza flotilla deaths and said that the Israeli inquiry meets the standard of "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation". U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking in Luxembourg, stressed the need for "a truly independent inquiry and a thorough investigation that the international community can respect." Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor told Turkish media that there "will be international elements in the commission which is going to be formed".
The Israeli government said it would accept a limited role by non-Israelis in the investigation of the raid, but rejected an independent international inquiry, and said the country is able to conduct a credible review on its own. Analysts suggested that after the controversial UN-sponsored Goldstone Report, Israel lacks faith that the United Nations can do a credible job of investigating events related to Israel. An internal Israeli police investigation was halted by Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. A group of Israeli Navy reserve officers issued a letter backing the call for an independent investigation.
The Turkel Commission
Following the raid, Israel's government set up the Turkel Commission, a commission of inquiry headed by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, to investigate the raid. It was chaired by Justice Turkel, and had four members: Shabtai Rosenne, Professor of International Law at Bar-Ilan University, Amos Horev, a retired Israeli Major-General and President of the Technion Institute of Technology, Miguel Deutch, Professor of Law at Tel Aviv University, and Reuven Merhav, former Director-General of the Foreign Ministry. Rosenne died at age 93 during the Commission's work, and was not replaced. The commission had two non-voting foreign observers: Former First Minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, and former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces Ken Watkin, both of whom were friendly to Israel according to the BBC and Der Spiegel. The Committee also contracted the services of two foreign international law experts: Professors Wolf Heintschel von Heineg and Michael Schmitt.
The inquiry was charged with investigating the legality of the Gaza blockade, the legality of the Israeli Navy's actions during the raid, and determining whether investigations of claims of war crimes and breaches of international law conformed to Western standards. The Committee was also charged with investigating the Turkish position, and the actions taken by flotilla participants, especially the IHH, and examining the identities and intentions of the flotilla's participants.
During the investigation, the Committee heard the testimonies of two flotilla passengers and two Israeli human rights activists. The Committee requested the assistance of the Turkish Embassy in Israel in finding the Captain of the Mavi Marmara so he could be invited to testify. The request was denied, with the response being that the Committee could look at the testimony of the Captain contained in the Turkish report. The Committee also issued an open invitation to all passengers and crew to testify, and requested assistance from the Turkish Embassy in Israel in building a list of prospective witnesses, but received no immediate reply. The Committee also heard the testimonies of three politicians including the Prime Minister, three IDF officials (one testified twice), two government bureaucrats, and a Prison official.
The 300-page Turkel Committee Report found the actions of the Israeli Navy in the raid and Israel's naval blockade of Gaza were both legal under international law, and accused passengers and the IHH of planning and starting the violence.
Turkey and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Israeli investigation, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated the demand for an independent investigation, stating that the Israeli investigation will not have international credibility.
The Turkish Inquiry
Turkey also established an inquiry into the events, which found, in contrast to the Israeli inquiry, the blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. After the Turkish inquiry, Turkey described the raid as a violation of international law, "tantamount to banditry and piracy", and described the killings of activists as "state-sponsored terrorism". Concerning the Israeli inquiry, Turkey said its own commission was “surprised, appalled and dismayed that the national inquiry process in Israel has resulted in the exoneration of the Israeli armed forces”.
The UN investigation
On August 2, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. will conduct an investigation of the incident. Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, was appointed to preside over the Committee. The four-member panel also included Alvaro Uribe, outgoing Colombian president, as vice chair, and one representative each from Israel and Turkey. The panel started its work on August 10. In a statement, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the country had nothing to hide, and that it was in its interest that the truth of the events came to light throughout the world.
The UNHRC fact-finding mission
On 23 July 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council launched an independent fact-finding mission headed by three prominent international jurists to investigate violations of international law that may have occurred during the flotilla raid. Israel refused to allow the panel to interview Israeli witnesses, citing worries of bias.
In its first report, submitted in September 2010, the UN fact-finding mission found that the IDF broke international law, and that there was evidence sufficient to initiate prosecutions for breaches of the Geneva Convention.
The report stated that: "The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.” accusing Israeli commandos of summarily executing six passengers aboard the MV Mavi Marmara, citing forensic analysis indicating that Furgan Dogan was shot five times, including once in the face while he was lying on his back. "All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body except for the face wound, which entered the right of his nose," the report concluded. "According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point-blank range."
The report stated: "There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health".
The report also stated that it found no medical evidence of IDF commandos being shot. The report recommended that Israel pay reparations, and also described Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as "totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st century".
The United States expressed concern about the tone, content and conclusions of the report, while the European Union said that it should be transferred to the UN Secretary-General's investigation.
On 29 September 2010 the UN Human Rights Council voted to endorse the report, with 30 of the 47 countries voting in favor, the United States voting against, and 15 countries, including EU members, abstaining.
Turkey's Istanbul Bakırköy prosecutor's office, assisted by the Ankara prosecutor's office, has opened a criminal investigation. Possible charges, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, would include murder, injury, attacking Turkish citizens, and piracy. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said, "We will look into the circumstances of the death of an American citizen, as we would do anywhere in the world at all times", noting that the FBI could get involved, "working with the host government", "if we think a crime has been committed".
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli non-governmental organization, said that, based on laptop files and passenger testimony that a group of 40 "militant" activists boarded before the rest of the passengers, were not searched as they boarded, and that İHH President Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım had briefed this group with a mission of keeping Israelis from taking control of the ship.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, has complained that Israel is validating its own account by selectively using the seized video and equipment from reporters on board. FPA also criticized Israel's use of captured material without permission. Journalist Paul McGeough told his consul-general "we were robbed of any electronic equipment that we had" and that "Fairfax will fight this .. I could be back in Israel within two weeks to contest this." Israeli public radio reported that authorities had banned the media from providing any information about the dead and wounded, and who was taken to hospital in Israel. The censorship order was later lifted.
International law experts differed over the legality of the Israeli action in published assessments following the raid. Legal commentators generally agreed that Israel was required to respond with a proportional use of force in the face of violent resistance, but the degree of proportionality was disputed.
A fact-finding mission of the UNHRC claimed that Israel had broken international law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the Israeli raid, saying it involved disproportionate use of force and that the Gaza blockade was illegal. In the United States, the National Lawyers Guild's International Committee said the blockade's effects were "manifestly excessive" to the conditions of a lawful blockade, and that Israel's blockade, and raid, were therefore not lawful. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University said that the "ships that were situated in the high seas where freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas". Anthony D'Amato, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, said the raid was illegal and that a legitimate blockade would have required a state of war between Israel and Hamas, which he said wasn't the case.
Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner, and Johns Hopkins international law Professor Ruth Wedgwood, said that the naval blockade and the boarding in international waters were in accord with long-standing international law, and comparable to other blockades in unrelated, historical conflicts. Dershowitz and Posner also defended the specific use of force as legal.
The IHH announced plans for another flotilla to depart for Gaza in June 2011. On 17 June, they announced that their ship, the Mavi Marmara, could not join the flotilla for technical reasons but would sail for Gaza later.
Valley of the Wolves: Palestine is a 2011 Turkish action fiction film directed by Zübeyr Şaşmaz. The film, which is part of the Valley of the Wolves media franchise based on the Turkish television series of the same name and is a sequel to Valley of the Wolves Iraq (2006) and Valley of the Wolves: Gladio (2008), sees Polat Alemdar (Necati Şaşmaz) and his team go to Israel/Palestine to track down the Israeli military commander responsible for the Gaza flotilla raid.
- References with quoted text or translations
- Flotilla Incident Timeline (English: Part 1 of 2). IDF Spokesperson's Unit YouTube Channel. 15 July 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwoqGJJltPU. Retrieved 11 June 2011. Summary in English. Video has Hebrew commentary, English subtitles.
- Flotilla Incident Timeline (English: Part 2 of 2). IDF Spokesperson's Unit YouTube Channel. 15 July 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpPvs3YSE4g&feature=channel. Retrieved 11 June 2011. Summary in English. Video has Hebrew commentary, English subtitles.
- "Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance". UN Human Rights Council. 27 September 2010. pp. 66. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/15session/A.HRC.15.21_en.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- "Detailed testimony from IDF officers and soldiers, supported by documentation, reveals for the first time the aggressive, brutal fighting carried out by IHH operatives and their accomplices against Israeli forces aboard the Mavi Marmara". Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. 23 January 2011. pp. 22. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e162.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- "Interim Report on the Israeli Attack on the Humanitarian Aid Convoy to Gaza on 31 May 2010". Ankara: Turkish National Commission of Inquiry. September 2010. pp. 74. http://dosyalar.hurriyet.com.tr/mavimarmara_rapor.pdf. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- "Report on the Israeli Attack on the Humanitarian Aid Convoy to Gaza on 31 May 2010". Ankara: Turkish National Commission of Inquiry. February 2011. pp. 117. http://www.gif.org.tr/eng/pdf/110210_Turkey_Final_Report.pdf. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
- Israeli response
- Communique from IDF Spokesperson with links to IDF videos, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 31 May 2010
- IDF's YouTube channel's section of the Gaza flotilla raid – videos from IDF footage and ship's security cameras, YouTube
- Activist response
- Flotilla Campaign Summary Report (İHH)
- Free Gaza website
- WitnessGaza Flotilla weblog
Retrieved from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_flotilla_raid