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Netanyahu defends deadly flotilla raid

Israel’s Prime Minister has said that his troops acted within international law during an inquiry into the deaths of nine Turkish activists in May.

ISRAELI PRESIDENT Benjamin Netanyahu has appeared before an Israeli commission set up by the state to examine a deadly raid on a flotilla in international waters in May.

During his four-hour testimony, Netanyahu has insisted that the raid – which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens – was not in breach of international law.

“Not in breach of international law

“I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the state of Israel and the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] acted in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu told the panel.

The panel included retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, Jacob Turkel, Lord David Trimble from Northern Ireland, and retired Canadian General Ken Watkin.

Turkish government “did nothing”

In a move that is unlikely speed a recovery in friendly relations between the former allies, Netanyahu blamed the Turkish government for not stopping the flotilla:

“Despite our diplomatic efforts, the Turkish government did nothing,” he said, “It appears that the Turkish government did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel (to be) something that clashed with its interests.”

A further session is expected to continue during Monday afternoon, which will see the Israeli premier testify in camera. Netanyahu will presumably answer questions during this session that he refused to address publicly, including the names of Israeli officials who allegedly spoke with the Turkish government prior to the raid, and whether the Israeli government had considered a non-military approach to stopping the flotilla.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla – what happened?

Nine Turkish citizens died after Israeli forces stormed their ship, the Mavi Marmara, in May. The vessel was part of a flotilla that claimed to be travelling to the Palestinian port of Gaza with humanitarian aid.

However, Israel does not accept that the flotilla – which also included Irish vessel The Rachel Corrie – was attempting to breach the Israeli blockade of the city for purely humanitarian reasons.

“Elements hostile to Israel used the bogus rationale of a humanitarian crisis in order to try to break the naval blockade,” Netanyahu said.

Israel and Turkey also clash on who instigated the violence on the Mavi Marmara: the activists who were on board claim that Israeli soldiers opened fire on them, while the soldiers accuse those on the ship of attacking first.

The Israeli army already conducted its own investigation into the raid last month, which found that the use of live fire was justified.

UN inquiry to follow

Today’s inquiry is designed only to examine the legality of the action taken by the Israeli military, not the circumstances – political or otherwise – that led to the attack. A separate United Nations panel is expected to begin work on its own investigation later this week.

Turkey will also hold its own inquiry into the raid.

See comments made by an Israeli government spokesperson to BBC reporters following Netanyahu’s testimony:

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