Sunday, January 23, 2011

Israeli Turkel inquiry: Flotilla raid and Gaza Blockade was legal

An Israeli inquiry commission defended the actions of its troops during last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla sailing from Turkey.

The nearly 300-page report released Sunday by the government-appointed Turkel Commission said the actions of the soldiers "were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law" and that they opened fire in self-defense.

The commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, included five Israeli members and two international observers - Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin of Canada and Lord David Trimble of Northern Ireland.

The commission cleared the soldiers of any use of unnecessary violence, stating:
"It is possible to determine that the IDF soldiers acted professionally and with great presence of mind in light of the extreme violence which they hadn't expected.

"This professionalism was evident in the fact that they continued to exchange their lethal weapons for the less lethal option and visa versa in order to give a response that was appropriate to the nature of the violence directed at them."

"The decision-makers didn't have any prior knowledge of the violent reception planned by the IHH members and their inability to identify the intentions of the IHH directly affected the planning and execution of the operation."
The commission members found that incomplete intelligence gathering wasn't the only reason for the lack of preparation:
"The possibility that an organized group, armed with lethal weapons was on board the Marmara and set to take active measures against attempts to board the ship wasn't taken into account."
The IDF received a great deal of praise from the Turkel committee for placing senior officers on the scene – including the navy commander.
"This increased the chain of command's awareness of the developments as they happened which helped them to receive decisions efficiently, at the right time as the incident developed."
"The decision is compatible with the international practice which is used in naval operations, even when not considered an armed confrontation," the report stated. In addition, the commission members wrote that the way the IDF handled the transfer of the passengers to Israel was well done due to the coordination between the governmental offices.

The bloodshed drew heavy international condemnation directed at Israel and forced it to ease the blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Turkel Commission stressed that it did not find any evidence to the claims Israel was trying to prevent food from entering Gaza in order to stave its population. The members said the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave suffers from a 'lack of nutritional stability', not starvation. They naval blockade is legal in accordance with international law, the commission determined.
"The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel's efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law. 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. Nonetheless, and despite the limited number of uses of force for which we could not reach a conclusion, the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law."
"The imposition and enforcement of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip does not constitute "collective punishment" of the population of the Gaza Strip."

"International law does not give individuals or groups the freedom to ignore the imposition of a naval blockade that satisfies the conditions for imposing it and that is enforced accordingly, especially where a blockade satisfies obligations to neutral parties, merely because in the opinion of those individuals or groups it violates the duties of the party imposing the blockade vis-à-vis the entity subject to the blockade."