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Israel acted lawfully in deadly Gaza aid flotilla raid: Netanyahu

Israel's prime minister told an internal investigation on Monday that a deadly Israeli raid on an aid convoy bound for Gaza was within the boundaries of international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu told the panel Israel had not broken any laws

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told a special inquiry that Israel acted lawfully in a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla just over two months ago.

"I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the state of Israel and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) acted in accordance with international law," Netanyahu told members of the Tirkel Commission as he began testifying about the raid.

Netanyahu was the first witness to testify at the internal investigation, which was set up following intense international pressure on the Israeli government following the commando raid in May. The raid, on six ships attempting to break a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, killed nine Turkish activists and wounded many others.

Turkey 'did nothing'

The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey. Netanyahu accused Turkey of making no effort to prevent the flotilla from breaking the blockade.

Activists wearing life vests pray and wait on board the Mavi Marmara ship en route to the Gaza Strip

The flotilla was carrying some 800 activists and 10,000 tons of supplies

"Despite our diplomatic efforts, the Turkish government did nothing" to halt the flotilla, which was organized by the "radical Turkish organization IHH which supports Hamas," he told the five-member panel, which is being overseen by two international observers.

"The Turkish government did not consider the confrontation between Turkish activists and Israel to be against its interests."

Netanyahu added that he ordered troops to make a "supreme effort" to avoid harming any passengers on board the aid ships.

Israel says its commandos resorted to using their weapons only after they were attacked once boarding the vessels. However, activist survivors of the skirmishes say the soldiers opened fire immediately after rappelling aboard.

The inquiry is to question Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday, followed by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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