'Israelis fired at Gaza flotilla in self-defence'
Israeli soldiers opened fire in self-defence during a raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in which nine activists were killed, an Israeli inquiry concluded on Sunday.world Updated: Jan 24, 2011 00:05 IST
Israeli soldiers opened fire in self-defence during a raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in which nine activists were killed, an Israeli inquiry concluded on Sunday.
The assault last May - which triggered a worldwide furore - did not violate international law, the 300-page report from the government-appointed panel of inquiry found.
The commission, headed by retired supreme court judge Yaakov Turkel, was announced last June, almost a month after the deadly interception of the flotilla, which was carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Its conclusions were endorsed by two international observers, who were appointed to the commission following claims that an internal Israeli investigation into the raid would not be objective.
Israel intercepted the flotilla in international waters, claiming the boats could be carrying arms or materials that could be used by militants. A battle between naval commandoes and mainly Turkish activists on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, ended with the death of nine people - including one who sustained four bullet wounds to the head.
The report, delivered to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the Israeli military "were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law".
The report said that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal under international law, but recommended that the government examine ways to "focus its sanctions on Hamas", referring to the Islamist organisation that runs the territory, rather than on the civilian population as a whole.
The raid on the Mavi Marmara caused a wave of global protest. Relations between Israel and its close ally Turkey came close to breaking point. The Mavi Marmara had sailed from Turkey and all those killed were Turkish citizens.