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Israel’s flotilla interception ruled lawful
Action angered Turkey
Question of the Day
Israel acted lawfully but excessively when it intercepted a Turkish vessel seeking to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip last year, according to a long-awaited U.N. report on a skirmish that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists and the collapse of the Israeli-Turkish alliance.
A copy of the report, which was set to be released formally on Friday, was leaked by the New York Times on Thursday, hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave Israel a one-day deadline to apologize for the incident.
Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv and froze its longstanding mitary and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish state after the May 2010 incident.
But in back-channel negotiations in the past few months, the estranged allies could not come to terms on Turkey’s demand for an apology, with Israel claiming that its commandos used lethal force aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara in self-defense.
The report sides mostly with Israel’s version of events.
“Israeli Defense Forces personnel faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection,” the report says.
However, it adds that Israel’s decision to forcibly board the ship in international waters was “excessive and unreasonable.”
The Mavi Marmara was part of a six-ship flotilla seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.
On the blockade’s legality, the report also backs Israel.
“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” it says. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reportedly was willing to apologize for operational errors in the raid and to compensate the families of the dead, faced resistance from his coalition partners who thought it was Turkey that owed Israel an apology for allowing the ship to sail from a Turkish port.
The report’s release had been postponed twice to give the sides more time to negotiate. Turkey’s foreign minister told Today’s Zaman newspaper on Thursday that Turkey had rejected Israel’s request for a further six-month delay.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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