Israeli probe justifies flotilla raid, Gaza naval blockade

Israel`s deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla was legal under int`l law, an Israeli probe said.

Jerusalem: Israel`s deadly commando raid
on a Gaza-bound flotilla that sparked global condemnation and
its naval blockade of the coastal strip were on Sunday described
as legal under international law by an Israeli probe and
cleared the soldiers involved in the operation.

The Turkel Committee report said Israel`s actions had
"the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and
physical injuries". Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists
were killed in the deadly Israeli raid in May 2010.

A separate UN inquiry last year said the Israeli Navy
had shown an "unacceptable level of brutality".

"Nonetheless the actions taken were found to be legal
pursuant to the rules of international law."

The commission also cleared the soldiers of any use of
unnecessary violence.

"It is possible to determine that the Israel Defence
Forces (IDF) soldiers acted professionally and with great
presence of mind in light of the extreme violence which they
hadn`t expected", the report said.

"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," it added.

The raid attracted widespread international
condemnation and severely strained Israel`s relations with
long time ally, Turkey.

According to the commission, the soldiers were
surprised by the violence when they boarded the Marmara.

"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," it

The commission members also ascertained that
incomplete intelligence gathering wasn`t the only reason for
the lack of preparation.

"The possibility that an organised 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," they noted.

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 report points out.

The 300-page report also found that Israel`s naval
blockade of Gaza was legal under the rules of international

However, the report was critical of Israel`s land
blockade of the coastal enclave, saying that Israel "examine
of the medical needs of the people of Gaza in order to find
ways to improve the current situation."

The Turkel commission also said that the Israeli
government should look at ways to "focus its sanctions on
Hamas" while avoiding harm against the civilian population.

The panel of inquiry, headed by retired Supreme Court
Justice Jacob Turkel, with five Israeli members and two
international observers, was set up in June.

It had a mandate to look into the legality of the
raid, but critics attacked this remit as too narrow.

The panel`s two foreign observers, Brig Gen Ken
Watkin of Canada and Lord David Trimble of Northern Ireland,
have both signed off on the report`s conclusions.

The inquiry heard testimony from high-ranking Israeli
officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Defence Minister Ehud Barak and army chief General Gabi
Ashkenazi, as well as several Israeli-Arab lawmakers who were
travelling with the flotilla.

None of the soldiers involved in the raid was
authorised to provide testimony. Many Israel`s critics are
viewing the internal investigation with little credibility and
have written it off as a whitewash.