x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Turkish anger as Israel says attack on Gaza flotilla was legal

Findings of an Israeli investigation into a deadly raid on flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships 'biased and meaningless. says Turkey.

ISTANBUL // Turkey yesterday called the findings of an Israeli investigation into a deadly raid on a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships "biased and meaningless".

The Israeli inquiry concluded that the attack last May, in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos, did not violate international law. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, made it clear his country views the report as a whitewash.

"This report was bespoke," Mr Erdogan said yesterday. "Can a report written by the country itself have any value? For me, this report has no value, no validity."

Turkey's own investigative body set up after the May 31 attack, the National Research and Investigation Commission, said it had heard of the Israeli findings "with consternation and dismay". It said the Israeli attack had "trampled on all international norms".

The findings of the Turkish commission's investigation into the raid on the flotilla, led by the Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara, also became public yesterday.

It held Israel responsible for the violence on board the vessel, which had been sent to Gaza by an Islamic aid organisation that Israel claims is an extremist group. "The force used to intercept the Mavi Marmara exceeded the limits of what was appropriate and necessary," the report said.

In Israel, international criticism prompted politicians to appoint a commission headed by a former judge, Yaakov Tirkel, to examine the legality of the military operation as well as Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. In its report yesterday, the six-member Tirkel commission concluded that the raid and the blockade complied with international law. "The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip … was legal pursuant to the rules of international law," the panel said. It regretted the loss of life, but said "the actions taken were found to be legal". The commission said Israeli troops "encountered extreme violence" from activists when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.

While the Turkish report described the activists on the ship as victims, the Israeli one said activists "used firearms against the soldiers".

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, told the Tirkel commission last year that the stated mission of the flotilla to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip had been a "planned provocation" and spoke of the suspicion that the flotilla's organisers were "preparing for an armed conflict to embarrass Israel".

The attack on the Mavi Marmara has reduced relations between the former allies Turkey and Israel to tatters. Turkey has called on Israel to issue an apology and pay compensation to the victims' families. Israel has rejected the demands.

Although high-level contacts between the two countries were re-established after Turkey helped Israel to put out a devastating forest fire last year, the row remains unresolved. Relations could deteriorate further in the coming days as a new Turkish action film describing the events on the Mavi Marmara and a fictional campaign of revenge on those responsible hits cinemas across Turkey and abroad on Thursday.

In the movie, the fictional Turkish secret agent Polat Alemdar travels to Israel to avenge the nine victims of the commando raid. Valley of the Wolves - Palestine is unlikely to go down well in Israel.

One internet trailer for the movie shows heavily armed Israeli soldiers abseiling from helicopters on to the deck of the Mavi Marmara, where they start shooting activists.

tseibert@thenational.ae