Reuters & PressTV – 2010-10-30 01:35:40
308 Bullets Fired at Gaza Activists
Reuters & PressTV
(October 25, 2010) — Israel’s army chief says Israeli forces fired more than 300 live bullets during the takeover of the Turkish-flagged aid ship, Mavi Marmara, back in May.
In his second round of testimony before an Israeli inquiry panel on Sunday, the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said Israeli navy commandos fired 308 live bullets aboard the Gaza-bound aid vessel during the deadly takeover of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, Reuters reported.
The six-ship civilian aid convoy was in international waters, heading for the blockaded Gaza Strip when it was stormed by Israeli forces who killed nine Turkish nationals onboard.
Testifying before the six-member investigation commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Yaacov Tirkel, Ashkenazi said the killing of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara had been unavoidable.
Israeli marine commandos were equipped with anti-riot gear, but quickly switched to live fire to confront the pro-Palestinian activists because “if they had not done this, there would have been more casualties,” Ashkenazi insisted.
Turkish forensic findings had earlier revealed that the nine dead activists were shot a total of 30 times, and gunshot wounds were found among 24 other passengers, who had sustained injuries in the incident.
Ashkenazi said passengers grabbed three Glock handguns and an Uzi machine pistol from Israeli forces and opened fire on the invading commandos.
But Mavi Marmara activists — who maintain the commandos’ use of deadly force was unprovoked — have said any guns taken from the troops were disposed of, rather than used.
In a report in September, the UN Human Rights Council stated that several passengers may have been executed.
The report referred to one of the nine victims, who suffered a fatal brain injury from a “beanbag” round — a heavy pad fired from a shotgun, which is meant to knock down, but not kill the person targeted.
Ankara suspended its relations with Tel Aviv following the May 31 onslaught, a strain intensified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for what he called an “act of self-defense” by Israeli commandos.
Turkey demands compensation and a formal apology from Israel. It has also dismissed the Tirkel panel as being too limited in scope.
‘ICC Must Prosecute Flotilla Attackers’
(October 10, 2010) — On May 31, Israeli navy commandos stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it was heading for the blockaded Gaza Strip in international waters, killing nine Turkish activists onboard the six-vessel civilian humanitarian assistance Flotilla and injuring at least 50 others.
The families of the victims have petitioned the Hague-based world criminal court to examine possible war crimes carried out during the bloody takeover of the aid convoy, the Guardian reported on Friday.
Lawyers representing the activists wrote to the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying that they have definitive evidence of Israeli crimes, as well as professional opinions composed by internationally acclaimed legal experts.
“The attack on the Flotilla occurred in international waters, which directly violated many parts of international law as well as international public and criminal law,” said Ramazan Ariturk of the Elmadag Law Office, which is representing the Turkish victims and the human rights group IHH.
“The crimes committed by the Israel Defense Forces must be prosecuted and the International Criminal Court is the sole authority which is able to do that,” he added.
The Turkish lawyers believe that it falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC to punish those responsible for the Flotilla attack, even though Israel does not recognize the court’s authority.
They argue that the fact that Turkey was involved in the incident and that the attacked aid ship Mavi Marmara sailed under a Comoro Islands flag give the ICC the jurisdiction to examine the incident, since those states are signatories of the Rome Statute, which established the court.
A report by a fact-finding committee commissioned by the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to probe the events surrounding the Flotilla attack charged Israel last month with violating international law and the human rights of the activists on board the convoy.
The UNCHR adopted the conclusions arrived at by the committee with 30 nations voting in favor and 15 states abstaining — and despite opposition from the United States, which became the only state to vote against the UN report.
The Human Rights Commission concluded that Israel’s siege on Gaza is illegal because of the humanitarian crisis it causes for the impoverished population living in the enclave. It also condemned the Israeli attack on the Flotilla as “brutal and disproportionate.”
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