The inquiry committee appointed by Israel to investigate the events that occured on May 31st on the Mavi Marmara has released its report.
Headed by Honorable Supreme Court Justice Emeritus Jacob Turkel and and including jurists and world-renowned experts as well as international observers, the committee determined unequivocally that Israel acted in accordance to international law imposing and enforcing a blockade in international waters. The events that folded that day were a result of direct attack on IDF soldiers, an attack that took them by surprise.
This conclusion is based on testimonies of 27 witnesses in person and 12 witnesses in camera.The testimony was supported by a great deal of material that was submitted for the committee’s perusal. Among the witnesses there were also human rights organizations and two Israeli citizens who participated in the flotilla.
The committee focused on examining the circumstances and the legality of the Israeli soldiers’ seizure of the Mavi Marmara and the other vessels. Major General (Res.) Giora Eiland conducted an in-depth operational IDF investigation. The Eiland report and all its appendices were submitted to the committee, after which the committee instructed the IDF to conduct additional investigations for the purpose of filling in some details. A professional military team was made available to the committee to enable it to conduct a more in-depth operational investigation. The team did so in full coordination with the committee, under the guidance of staff acting on the committee’s behalf. In the course of these intensified investigations, testimony was taken from 39 soldiers and other IDF personnel who were directly involved in the events. Afterwards, additional written testimony was taken from another 23 soldiers and 23 other soldiers were questioned again.
Here are the main findings of the report:
- The marine blockade was imposed due to security needs and meets the requirements of international law. Israel is upholding its international humanitarian obligations in the situation of a naval blockade on Gaza, as evident by the fact that vessels are allowed to pass into Ashdod Port to unload humanitarian equipment.
- The policy towards the Gaza Strip complies with international and humanitarian law - Israel does not prevent the entry of supplies essential to the civilian population, and provides as much humanitarian and medical assistance as is necessary according to the rules of international law. Israel cooperates with the Palestinian Authority and the international community in these realms.
- The takeover of the Marmara was done in accordance with international law - According to international law, if it may be determined that a vessel is intentionally trying to breach a blockade, it is permitted to overtake it wherever it is located, even in international waters. The possibility of stopping vessels, especially large ones, at high sea is extremely limited. Therefore, lowering soldiers from helicopters was an appropriate tactic that suits international law, and is consistent with the experience of other navies.
- The instructions for opening fire were not to shoot except in the case of a real and immediate threat to life. The soldiers took action only after they were violently attacked by the ship’s passengers. The IDF did not anticipate that the flotilla participants would not be innocent civilians but rather direct participants in hostilities. The soldiers were violently attacked with shots, knives, clubs, hammers, blows and more. Nine soldiers were injured during the attack, including from live bullets, and others from stabbings. Three soldiers were seized and dragged to the ship’s hold.
- Conduct of the passengers - there were 2 groups on the Mavi Marmara - peace activists, who boarded the ship in Antalya following a security inspection, and a “hard core” of 40 IHH activists who boarded in Istanbul without any security inspection and behaved as a separate group. They were joined by 60 other activists who participated in the violent events. When the ship’s captain ordered the passengers to return to their places below deck, the IHH activists remained on deck, put on life jackets and armed themselves with axes, chains, knives, hammers, etc.
- The committee was convinced that the IHH activists used live weapons. Their intention was to breach the marine blockade and thereby provide Hamas with an advantage in its armed struggle against the State of Israel.
- Handling of the passengers - After the takeover was completed, the stage of treating the wounded began. Eighteen doctors, six paramedics, and 70 combat medics and one senior physician were involved in this event. Some of the wounded resisted the administration of medical treatment but none died of their wounds after medical treatment commenced. The passangers were treated according to international law at all times.
Despite the attempt by various parties to accuse Israel of war crimes, the findings prove that Israel stated the truth and acted in accordance with the law. Gaza is open to the entry of all types of goods and products. Any organization wishing to transfer products to Gaza can do so through the existing border crossings. There is no need for additional flotillas, which in fact comprise a provocation and have no connection to humanitarian aid.