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World

Israeli probe clears Gaza blockade, deadly flotilla raid

An Israeli commission set up to investigate a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year that killed Turkish activists has found that Israeli troops acted legally. Turkey has dismissed the report.

The Mavi Marmara ship

The Mavi Marmara was stormed by Israeli commandos

Israel's Gaza blockade and its deadly raid on a Turkish-led flotilla bound for the Palestinian territory last May were legal, according to a report by an Israeli commission released Sunday. Turkey, however, dismissed the report out of hand.

The May 31 raid by Israeli commandos ended in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists on board the Turkish-owned ship, the Mavi Marmara. The raid attracted widespread international condemnation.

The flotilla, which said it was carrying humanitarian aid and supplies to the troubled region, had the stated mission of confronting the Gaza blockade. But the Israeli report defended the naval restrictions.

"The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip ... was legal pursuant to the rules of international law," said the report by the six-member commission led by former judge Yaakov Tirkel.

"The actions carried out by Israel on May 31, 2010, to enforce the naval blockade had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries," the paper said.

"Nonetheless ... the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law."

Activists wearing life vests pray and wait on board the Mavi Marmara

The Turkish vessel was packed with activists

Turkey furious

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the report. "To my judgment there is no value, no credibility to this report," he said on Sunday.

"How can there be any value or credibility to such a report, which the country itself created within its own borders?" he added.

The report categorizes the ongoing duel between Israel and the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, as "an international armed conflict," adding that the Jewish state's actions against the group, including the naval blockade, did not constitute "collective punishment of the population of the Gaza Strip."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the report, saying "our soldiers acted to protect themselves and their country."

Sunday's near-300-page report, which was some seven months in the making, was the first of two to be released. A second paper is to focus on the decisions of officials leading up to and during the flotilla raid, and is expected to be delivered later this year.

Counter-report

Turkish authorities on Sunday backed Erdogan's view, in a separate inquiry into the deadly flotilla raid on Sunday. The findings, which were released on Sunday, found Israeli troops used "excessive" force in the assault.

"The force used to intercept the Mavi Marmara exceeded the limits of what was appropriate and necessary," said the document, which was timed to coincide with the release of the Israeli report.

The commission's inquiry, set up by Turkey last year, interviewed Turkish and foreign activists on the flotilla.

The commission's preliminary report criticized the "disproportionate nature of the attack" and called on the Jewish state to pay compensation to the families of the victims.

A United Nations report released last year also chided Israel over the flotilla raid, saying the Jewish state violated international law, "including international humanitarian and human rights law."

Author: Darren Mara, Nicole Goebel (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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