Gaza flotilla raid

Gaza flotilla raid

Coordinates: 32°38′28″N 33°34′02″E / 32.64113°N 33.56727°E / 32.64113; 33.56727

Routes of the Gaza-bound flotilla (green) and the Israeli Navy (orange)

The Gaza flotilla raid was a military operation by Israel against six ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" on 31 May 2010 in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.

On 31 May 2010, Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commandos boarded the ships from speedboats[1] and helicopters in order to force the ships to the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection. On the Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara, boarding faced resistance from about 40 IHH activists – described in a UN report as a "separate hardcore group" – who were armed with iron bars, dinner plates and knives.[2] During the struggle, nine activists were killed, and many were wounded. Ten of the commandos were also wounded, one of them seriously.[2][3] The five other ships in the flotilla employed passive resistance, which was suppressed without major incident. The ships were towed to Israel, where all passengers were detained and deported.

The raid drew widespread condemnation internationally and resulted in a deterioration of Israel-Turkey relations. Israel consequently eased its blockade on the Gaza Strip, all activists were freed, and the ships returned. In September 2011, a United Nations report, after analysis of both Turkey and Israeli national investigations, concluded that the Israeli blockade was legal, but that Israel army used excessive force in this incident by firing stun and smoke grenades from the Israeli army’s speed boats and helicopters before boarding into flotilla and conducted live fire rounds from the helicopters before or after boarding, though the flotilla was still in international waters. The report also mentioned "serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH."[4]

The government of Israel alleged that the flotilla was organized as a provocation or media stunt,[text 1] and that a hard core of about 40 IHH activists were prepared from the beginning for a violent confrontation.[5] The New York Times, in an editorial, asserted that "At least some of the activists on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, were seeking a confrontation – and got one."[6]



The operation, code named Operation Sea Breeze or Operation Sky Winds[7] was an attempt to block the Free Gaza Movement's ninth attempt to break the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.[8][9] Israel proposed inspecting the cargo at the Port of Ashdod and then delivering non-blockaded goods through land crossings, but this proposal was turned down.[10] Israeli forces then raided and seized the Gaza-bound ships in international waters of the Mediterranean.[11]

Israeli Navy warships flanked the flotilla and an aircraft flew overhead after it ignored Israeli instructions. Speedboats were prevented from approaching the Mavi Marmara by throwing broken dishes and metal chains.[12] The other ships were boarded from speedboats. Israeli forces were met by passive resistance on five of the ships, but clashes broke out aboard the Mavi Marmara. A team of 15 Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commandos abseiled onto the ships from helicopters with paintball guns, plastic bullet riot dispersal handguns, and hidden firearms. The first team commander was thrown over the deck head down, abducted and stabbed, along with a second commando, and a third was grabbed off the rope. They were taken to an inside room and medically treated by the activists, who left the knife in the commander's stomach. A stun grenade from the abducted soldiers was thrown at the commandos and a handgun was allegedly taken from one soldiers and fired by an activist, who was intercepted. The commandos were ordered to use live fire. In the melee, five activists were killed, and two, wounded by rubber bullets, died a short time later.[text 2] According to the Israeli timeline video, within 5 minutes the roof was secured, with the assistance of an extra 15 man commando unit. Only 15 minutes later the commandos began the ship takeover with live ammunition and a third team of fighters. The soldier's captors escaped, and the Israeli commander pulled the knife out of his body and jumped overboard along with a second soldier. The third, with severe head injury was left and found by his comrades later. The raid ended with nine activists killed,[13][14][15] and dozens injured. A UNHRC fact-finding mission described six of the nine passengers' deaths as "summary execution" by the Israeli commandos.[16] However, a BBC documentary concluded that Israeli forces had acted in self-defense against a premeditated attack by a group of hardcore IHH activists.[17] Seven Israeli commandos were injured in the skirmish. After seizing control of the ships, Israeli forces towed them to Ashdod and detained the passengers.[18][19][20] Both sides place responsibility for the bloodshed on the other, and accounts of the events vary.

Blockade of the Gaza Strip
General Barrier • Crossings: Erez, Karni, Rafah • Tunnels • Goods affected • Israeli-Palestinian conflict
2000 Second Intifada
2006 Economic sanctions
2007 Battle of Gaza
2008 Breach of the Gaza–Egypt border • Gaza War
2009 Viva Palestina: "Lifeline to Gaza" • "Lifeline 3"
2010 Gaza flotilla raid (flotilla; ships: Mavi Marmara, Rachel Corrie; participants, reactions, legal, Turkel Commission (Israel), Gaza journey of MV Rachel Corrie) • Jewish Boat to Gaza • Viva Palestina "Lifeline 5" • Road to Hope
2011 Freedom Flotilla II (participants)
v · d · e

The raid prompted widespread international reactions and demonstrations around the world.[21] The United Nations Security Council condemned "those acts resulting in civilian deaths", demanded an impartial investigation of the raid,[22] and called for the immediate release of civilians held by Israel.[22] Israel released all passengers of the flotilla by 6 June 2010.[23] The incident threatened the already deteriorating relations between Turkey and Israel.[24] Turkish president Abdullah Gül described the raid as an attack on Turkey for the first time since World War I.[text 3]

Israel initially rejected calls from the United Nations and world governments for an international investigation into its raid on the Gaza aid flotilla,[25][26][27][text 4] but later agreed to cooperate with an investigation conducted by the United Nations.[28] Israel formed the Turkel Committee to investigate the raid. The committee, headed by retired Supreme Court of Israel judge Jacob Turkel, included two international observers.[29][30] The conclusions of an internal inquiry by the Israel Defense Forces under retired general Giora Eiland were presented to the chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi on 12 July 2010.[31] Eiland's report found that the naval commandos had carried out their duties with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness, and the commanders had exhibited correct decision making. The report further determined that "the use of live fire was justified and that the entire operation was estimable."[32] In August 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. would conduct an investigation of the incident. A separate investigation was conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The findings of this committee, published on 22 September 2010, called the Israeli operation "disproportionate" and condemned its "unacceptable level of brutality."[33] The UN Human Rights Council had also condemned the raid in June, before its investigation.[34] Another resolution backing the report was passed despite American opposition and EU abstention.[35] Israel accused the UNHRC of a biased, politicized and extremist approach.[34] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the actions of the soldiers as a clear case of self-defense.[36] The Israeli Supreme Court, which rejected several local legal suits against the flotilla raid, wrote in its verdict that "the soldiers were forced to respond in order to defend their lives."[37]

Five shipments had been allowed through prior to the 2008–09 Gaza War, but all shipments following the war were blocked by Israel.[38] This flotilla was the largest to date. An Islamic aid group from Turkey, the İHH (İnsani Yardım Vakfı) (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) sponsored a large passenger ship and two cargo ships.

The flotilla

One of the passengers declares he wants to become a martyr

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.[39][40][41] Israel questioned the humanitarian motives of flotilla organizers, saying it had invited the organizers to use the land crossings but they had refused.[42]

Three of the flotilla ships carried only passengers and their personal belongings.[43] Whereas in previous voyages, Free Gaza vessels carried 140 passengers in total, in this flotilla, over 600 activists were on board the Mavi Marmara alone.[14]

Three other ships carried cargo: 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid, with an estimated value of $20 million. Reports disagree about the presence and quantity of paramilitary equipment.[44]

For the initial leg of the voyage, six of the eight ships set out on 30 May 2010 from international waters off the coast of Cyprus;[45] the remaining two were delayed by mechanical problems.[46] There are suggestions that the IDF or Mossad may have sabotaged three of the ships before the raid.[47]


The ships of the Gaza flotilla raid comprised three passenger ships[43] and three cargo ships:

  • Challenger 1 (small yacht),[43] United States, Free Gaza Movement
  • MS Eleftheri Mesogios (Free Mediterranean) or Sofia (cargo boat), Greece[48] Greek Ship to Gaza
  • Sfendoni (small passenger boat), Greece[43] Greek Ship to Gaza and European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza
  • MV Mavi Marmara (passenger ship),[43] Comoros, İHH
  • Gazze, Turkey, İHH
  • Defne Y, Kiribati, İHH

Two other Free Gaza Movement ships had mechanical problems:[46] Challenger 2 (USA flagged) had to turn back half way through the voyage and MV Rachel Corrie (Cambodia flagged) docked in Malta for repairs and continued separately.


The INS Hanit at Haifa naval base
The INS Nitzachon at Haifa naval base

A few minutes after 9:00 pm, Sa'ar 5-class corvettes INS Lahav and INS Hanit, and the Sa'ar 4-class missile boat INS Nitzachon left Haifa naval base to intercept the flotilla. The three warships had speedboats, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and 71 Shayetet 13 commandos on board. The Israeli Navy made initial contact with the flotilla at 11 p.m. (2000 UTC) on 30 May, about 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Gaza, 80 miles (130 km) off the coast of southern Lebanon, in international waters, ordering the ships to follow them to port or otherwise be boarded.[44][49][50]

The Shayetet 13 commandos who participated in the operation underwent a month of training prior to the operation, including dummy takeovers of a ship at sea with fifty soldiers performing the role of activists. The Israeli Navy claimed that the soldiers were trained for "a Bil'in-type opposition".[51] Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran Israeli correspondent aboard the Israeli missile boat INS Nitzachon reported that the assessment was that the passengers would show "light resistance and possibly minor violence". The soldiers were armed with paintball guns,[19] stun grenades, tasers, and pistols as sidearms, which were attached to their backs.[52] The soldiers had orders to confront protesters and peacefully convince the them to give up, and if not successful, to use non-lethal force to commandeer the ship. They were instructed to use their sidearms only in an emergency, when their lives were at risk.[53][54]

Ahead of the operation, the soldiers were briefed by Vice-Admiral Eli Marom, the commander of the Israeli Navy. Marom stated that the IDF had no intention of harming any flotilla passengers and would act professionally. He also warned soldiers that the passengers could provoke them in ways such as throwing cigarettes, spitting, and cursing, but that "we do not respond to these types of actions. We act as professional soldiers do".[55]

The Israeli Navy radioed Tural Mahmut, the captain of the Mavi Marmara, sending him this message: "Mavi Marmara, you are approaching an area of hostilities, which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza coastal area and Gaza Harbour are closed to all maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in Gaza Strip and invites you to enter Ashdod port. Delivery of supplies will be in accordance with the authorities' regulations and through the formal land crossing to Gaza and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports aboard the vessels on which you arrived." The reply was: "Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza." Shortly after, three Israeli warships began shadowing the flotilla. Two warships flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance. An Israeli aircraft also flew overhead.[56]

Footage taken from the Mavi Marmara security cameras showing the activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers

Five days after the raid, IDF released an audio recording purporting to be of a radio exchange between the Israeli Navy and the flotilla. After Israeli warnings that the ships were approaching a blockade, voices responded "Go back to Auschwitz!" and "Don't forget 9/11".[57] Denis Healey, the captain of Challenger I, and activist Huwaida Arraf who was on the bridge of the ship, disputed the authenticity of the recording. Israel conceded that it was impossible to trace who made the comments, or from which ship, because they were made on an open channel.[58][59] An Israeli journalist who was on board an IDF ship confirmed the IDF accounts.[text 5]

Hours before the raid, the head of the İHH, Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım declared, "We're going to defeat the Israeli commandos–we're declaring it now. If you bring your soldiers here, we will throw you off the ship and you'll be humiliated in front of the whole world." Later, according to the crew, a group of about 40 İHH activists took over the ship.[60]

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli non-governmental organization which, according to Haaretz, is "widely seen as an unofficial branch of Israel's intelligence community"[61], said that, based on laptop files and passenger testimony that a group of 40 "militant" activists boarded before the rest of the passengers, were not searched as they boarded, and that İHH President Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım had briefed this group with a mission of keeping Israelis from taking control of the ship.[62][61]

The IDF identified a group of some 50 men who were responsible for attacking IDF soldiers. The members of this group were not carrying identity cards or passports, but each carried an envelope with some $10,000 in cash. The Israeli defense establishment suspected that the funding may have come from elements in the Turkish government. One member of the group, who was identified as its ringleader, travelled to Bursa to recruit members. The members were stationed in groups throughout the ship, mostly on the upper deck, and communicated with each other via walkie-talkies. The members well-trained and equipped with gas masks and bulletproof vests.[63]

The Mavi Maramara activists were divided into two groups, "peace activists" and "hardcore group".[64] Video footage shows the "hardcore group" activists prepared before the raid, praying together while wearing uniforms, taking their gas masks and makeshift weapons, and getting into position.[65] Activists dressed in protective clothing from construction materials.[66]

Mavi Marmara boarding

Mavi Marmara passengers attack IDF soldiers with metal rods

The boarding of the Mavi Marmara started in the early morning at 4:30 IST. The operation began with an attempt to board the ship from speedboats. As the boats approached, activists fired water hoses at them, and pelted them with a variety of objects. The Israelis replied with paintballs and stun grenades. One stun grenade was picked up and tossed back into a boat. When the commandos tried boarding the ship, activists cut the ladders with electric disc saws. The boats then turned slightly away from the ship, but remained close.[60][67]

The IDF then sent in a Black Hawk helicopter with a 15-man assault team on board.[60][68][69] According to the IDF, the commandos fired warning shots and dropped stun grenades prior to abseiling onto the ship.[70] The UNHRC report on the incident concluded that the Israeli soldiers were firing live rounds from the helicopter before they landed anyone on the ship.[71] Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, who was on the ship, stated that he saw one man shot in the head and others wounded by live fire.[72] Other passengers reported gunfire, blue flares and deafening noise from the first helicopter at this time.[73][74] Robert Mackey of The New York Times suggested that the passengers on the ship may have mistaken the flash grenades and paintball guns for deadly weapons, which enraged them.[75] Activists and crew members used gas masks.[text 6]

A rope was dropped from the helicopter onto the ship, but three activists seized it and tied it to the deck.[76] A second rope was dropped and the soldiers abseiled onto the deck. Each soldier was met with a team of resisting activists, throwing them off balance and assaulting them with makeshift weapons.[77][78] The first team of four commandos was immediately attacked. The Israeli commandos responded with their less-lethal weaponry, and attempted to physically fight off activists.

An injured Israeli commando captured by activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, and a knife-wielding activist[79]

Three Israeli commandos were captured. The first captured soldier, the commanding officer of the assault team, was abseiling from the helicopter when he was attacked by ten men before his feet hit the deck. He was beaten across his body and head, then picked up and thrown to the lower deck, where he was attacked by a dozen activists. They beat and choked him, removed his bulletproof vest and sidearm and smashed his helmet, and shoved him into a passenger hall below deck. The second soldier was surrounded by a team of fifteen to twenty activists in two groups. One group attacked him when he landed on the ship's roof. He fired one shot at an activist holding a knife before being subdued.[80] The activists seized his gun and beat him as he attempted to fight them off with his back to the hull. He was picked up by his arms and legs, and thrown over the hull. He attempted to hang on to the hull with both hands, but was forced to let go when activists beat his hands and pulled him down by his legs. He was then surrounded by another group of activists, stabbed in the stomach and was dragged into a lounge while being beaten. A third soldier who was lowered onto the deck saw an activist waiting to attack him with an iron crowbar. After shoving him away, he was attacked by four more activists, one of whom wrapped a chain around his neck and choked him until he lost consciousness. He was then thrown onto the bridge deck where he was attacked by about twenty activists, who beat him, cut away his equipment, and dragged him into the lounge.[81] The three soldiers were severely wounded and bleeding heavily. Two of the soldiers had their hands tied, and a third was unconscious and went into convulsions. During their captivity, they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and photographed and filmed. One of the soldiers claimed that he was beaten after he began moving and yelling that one of the soldiers needed a doctor, and another said that he was placed onto a couch, beaten, and threatened that he would be beaten every time he moved.[82] Although radical activists attempted to harm them further, more moderate passengers intervened and protected the soldiers.[83] Two were given water and one with a severe stomach wound was given a gauze pad. Hasan Huseyin Uysal, a Turkish doctor, cleaned the blood off their faces and tended to facial cuts.[84]

Activists throw a stun grenade into an IDF speedboat
Slingshots found Aboard the Mavi Marmara

Israel and the flotilla activists disagreed over whether guns seized from the captive soldiers were used by the activists.[85] Commandos reported that at least two of the captive commandos had their sidearms wrested away, and that there was live fire against them at a later stage.[86][87][88] The IDF reported that the second soldier to descend from the first helicopter was shot in the stomach,[89] and that another soldier was shot in the knee. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that activists seized three stun grenades from soldiers.[90]

After the third soldier was thrown from the roof, the commandos requested and received permission to use live fire.[80][91] The soldiers then opened fire with pistols, and activists dispersed to the front and back of the roof after taking casualties. An IDF medical officer on board located a secure spot, and oversaw treatment of injured soldiers. A second helicopter carrying 12 soldiers arrived over the ship. As the helicopter approached, activists attacked the IDF commandos, who repulsed them with gunshots aimed at their legs. At the same time, the speedboats trailing the ship approached again. They were met with a barrage of objects, including iron balls from slingshots, and allegedly with a burst of gunfire, forcing the boats to pull back again.[92][93]

Soldiers from the second helicopter successfully slid down and moved to gain control of the front of the roof and secure the lower decks. Passengers attacked them, and were dispersed with shots fired towards their legs. The first attempt to secure the lower decks was met with violent resistance, allegedly including live fire. Shortly afterward, a third helicopter arrived, carrying 14 soldiers. They successfully abseiled onto the ship, and the commander from the third helicopter met up with the commander from the second helicopter, after which the forces began moving towards the ship's bridge. They were attacked twice by activists, and responded with gunfire. The commandos reached the bridge after thirty minutes, and took command. Upon orders from the soldiers, the captain instructed all activists to enter their cabins. At this stage, most of the activists assembled on the sides of the ship retreated into the hull. The speedboats approached for a third time, and most of the remaining activists again hurled objects at the boats. Soldiers inside the boats then opened fire, taking careful aim to hit the resisting passengers and forcing the activists to disperse, enabling the soldiers to board from ladders. The soldiers were met with resistance, and responded with live fire. They managed to fight their way to the roof, where they met up with the rest of the force.[60][94] An assessment was made, and three soldiers were found to be missing. A force was prepared to rush the passenger halls and locate the soldiers. According to the IDF, soldiers spotted activists escorting the three captive soldiers onto the deck. One of the captive soldiers claimed that the activist guarding him waved to one of the IDF naval vessels to show that they were holding Israeli soldiers. At that point, he elbowed the activist in the ribs and jumped into the water, although the guard tried to hold him back. A second soldier also jumped into the water, while the third remained unconscious on the deck. IDF soldiers dispersed the activists with non-lethal weapons, and rescued the unconscious soldier, while the two soldiers in the water were picked up by the speedboats.[95][91][96] According to some accounts by activists and journalists, the captive soldiers were released after negotiations mediated by Haneen Zoabi, in which the IDF agreed to airlift the wounded in exchange for their release.[51][84][97][72]

The passengers were taken one-by-one from their cabins and searched on deck. Some were handcuffed and forced to kneel for hours. Women, elderly men, and western nationals were temporarily handcuffed or uncuffed shortly afterward and allowed to sit on benches. During the course of the journey to Ashdod port, passengers were brought inside and allowed to sit down. According to the UN fact-finding mission, passengers were subject to various forms of abuse.[98]

IDF Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi testified to Israel's Turkel Commission that the IDF had fired 308 live rounds and about 350 bean bag rounds and paintballs. An aide to the general said that that 70 of these shots were aimed to cause injury, while the others would have been warning shots. IDF Major-General Giora Eiland said that the IDF had found evidence of four instances of soldiers coming under fire from activists, and that in at least one case, the fire came from weapons that were not stolen from commandos.[60][91]

Sfendoni boarding

The operation to take the Sfendoni took place at the same time as the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. The Sfendoni attempted to evade Israeli naval vessels. According to one soldier, the ship attempted to run down his vessel, and chased it after it evaded, but the IDF vessel made a sharp turn and positioned itself behind it.[99] Speedboats approached the ship, and soldiers climbed onto the ship from ladders after firing plastic bullets, paintballs, and stun grenades. Some soldiers were shoved down a ladder onto the lower deck, where a group of passengers scuffled with soldiers, and an attempt was made to take a soldiers' weapon.[99] Once on board, the soldiers advanced towards the bridge. A number of activists formed a human chain to block them, and the Israelis responded with electric shocks.[100]

Retired diplomat Edward Peck, who was on board the Sfendoni, said that the commandos were well-trained, and behaved reasonably well. When two soldiers entered the bridge, an activist grabbed the wheel tightly and protested that the boat was in international waters. A scuffle then ensued between soldiers and a few activists. The soldiers used physical force, electric shocks, and stun grenades to gain control, but there were no major injuries.[100][101][102] Paul Larudee, a 64-year-old former linguistics professor from El Cerrito, California on board the Sfendoni, was beaten and tased according to his family who said that Israeli consular officials informed them that Larudee, a pacifist, was beaten after refusing to follow the orders of troops.[103][104]

When the boat was under Israeli control, activists were made to sit down and restrained with plastic ties. One man who complained that the plastic ties were too tight had them removed, then ran and jumped overboard, and was picked up by another boat. Passengers were searched one-by-one and then taken to the main salon. They were allowed to prepare food, but refused to eat until an IDF cameraman ceased filming them.[100]

Free Mediterranean boarding

Swedish author Henning Mankell reported that the capture of the Free Mediterranean took place about an hour after the raid on the Mavi Marmara.[105] Israeli soldiers boarded the ship from three speedboats, and managed to bypass barbed wire that had been placed around the ship. The passengers formed a human ring on the bridge to block the soldiers, and Israeli troops responded by using physical force, electric shocks, plastic and rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas.[106][105][107][108] A reporter for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Israeli soldiers approached passengers with guns drawn and tasered a 65 year-old person from a distance of ten centimeters.[text 7] All of the passengers were handcuffed and subjected to body searches and had their passports confiscated. Those who refused to cooperate were reportedly met with physical force.[106]

Challenger 1 boarding

The Challenger 1 accelerated its course in an attempt to allow journalists on board to broadcast their photos of the ongoing raid.[109] The ship was intercepted by two Israeli speedboats and a helicopter, and carried out evasion tactics, forcing the Israelis to pursue it for a considerable distance.[110] According to passengers, at least one stun grenade was launched at the Challenger 1 before it was boarded. Passengers on the decks formed a human chain to block the path of the troops. Soldiers opened fire with paintball guns and rubber and plastic bullets as they boarded the vessel, lightly injuring two female demonstrators.[111] Once on board, the Israelis moved towards the fly bridge. The soldiers encountered verbal abuse, and attempts were made to shove soldiers. Some activists barricaded themselves in cabins.[110] Activist Huwaida Arraf reported that Israeli soldiers attacked those who tried to block them with kicks, tasers, and concussion grenades,[101] and that some people were beaten so severely that they had to be hospitalized.[112] Arraf said that the Israelis smashed her face against the ground and stepped on it, and that they later handcuffed her and put a bag over her head.[113] Another woman similarly had a bag placed over her head.[100] First mate Shane Dillon reported that Israeli troops broke the nose of a Belgian woman and beat another passenger.[109] Australian photojournalist Kate Geraghty was tasered while attempting to photograph the raid.[109] Upon entering the bridge, the troops were met with no resistance.[111]

Passengers were handcuffed with plastic ties.[111] Activist Huwaida Arraf reported that Israeli troops confiscated communication equipment, cameras and memory cards.[114] Upon entering Ashdod port, several passengers joined hands and refused to disembark, protesting that they had been brought to Israel against their will from international waters. Two female passengers were handcuffed and forcibly removed, while a male passenger was threatened with a taser.[100]

Gazze 1 boarding

The Gazze 1 was boarded by soldiers from speedboats. Passengers and crew on board offered no resistance, and the ship was commandeered without incident. Passengers were ordered onto the deck while dogs searched the ship, and were later taken to the dining hall and bodysearched. They were not handcuffed, and provided with food during the journey to Ashdod.[106]

Defne Y boarding

Israeli commandos abseiled from a helicopter onto the Defne Y. The ship's crane had been positioned in such a way as to make it hard or impossible to abseil onto the deck, forcing troops to descend directly to the roof, endangering their lives.[110] Soldiers met no physical resistance as they secured the ship, but reportedly encountered verbal abuse. Passengers cooperated with the soldiers, were not handcuffed, and kept in their cabins during the trip to Ashdod. An İHH cameraman on board the Defne Y claimed to have been beaten and interrogated for five hours over a hidden videotape.[106]


Flotilla participants


Cevdet Kılıçlar, killed during the raid on the Mavi Marmara. Source: Iara Lee, Caipirinha Foundation

Nine activists were killed in the raid: Cengiz Akyüz (42), Ali Haydar Bengi (39), İbrahim Bilgen (61), Furkan Doğan (19), Cevdet Kılıçlar (38), Cengiz Songür (47), Çetin Topçuoğlu (53), Fahri Yaldız (43), and Necdet Yıldırım (32).[13][115][116] Most of the dead were members of, or volunteers for the İHH.[117]

According to Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, all of the dead were "involved in the fighting". Vilnai told a Knesset hearing that "there were no innocents among the dead".[63]

The bodies of activists were taken to Israel aboard a missile ship,[118] and held in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, where an external examination was carried out. The dead were flown to Turkey on 2 June.[119] Autopsies performed in Turkey showed that eight of the nine killed had died of 9mm gunshot wounds, with one death from an unnamed atypical round. Five had gunshot wounds to the head and at least four were shot from both back and front.[13][19] According to the UNHRC report, six were the victims of "summary executions", including two shot after they were severely injured.[120]

The İHH reported that the bodies had been washed before their return to Turkey. This removed gunpowder residue and made it hard to determine the shooting distance. According to the organization, the dead had been shot from up above and it was possible to determine which weapons were used.[121] The nine were shot 30 times in total.[13] Dr. Haluk Ince, the director of Istanbul's Medical Examination Institute, said that "from the analysis of the bullet distance on one of the bodies, the gun was fired between 2 and 14 centimeters' distance from the victim's head."[19] Doğan was shot five times from less than 45 cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.[13]

A funeral service for eight of the dead was held at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on 3 June.[122] The dead were taken to their hometowns, where they were buried in individual funerals. The last funeral was held at Beyazıt Mosque in Istanbul on 4 June, with the dead activist being buried in Istanbul.[123]

Furkan Doğan, 19, was born in Troy, New York to Turkish parents, and moved to Turkey at age two. He lived in Kayseri, and was according to some sources a dual citizen of the United States and Turkey, although most sources claim[citation needed] that he was a Turkish permanent resident, and a U.S. citizen only. İbrahim Bilgen, 61, was born in Batman, to a family of Iraqi immigrants. He was a politician of the Felicity Party,[124] previously the Virtue Party, which he had helped found, until it was banned for its Islamism. Bilgen was a longtime resident of Siirt, and was candidate for Mayor during the 2009 Turkish local elections. He was a married father of six. Ali Haydar Bengi, a Kurdish man from Diyarbakır, was the chairman of Aydınlık Yarınlar İçin Hak ve Özgürlükler Eğitim Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği (AYDER),[125] and a graduate of Al-Azhar University. He owned a telephone repair shop in Diyarbakır, and was married and a father of four. Cevdet Kılıçlar was a journalist and website manager for the İHH from Kayseri, and a correspondent for numerous Islamist newspapers. He briefly migrated to pGermany after Turkish security forces raided the offices of one of his newspapers, before returning to Turkey, where he continued his journalism, and was involved in Lifeline 3. Çetin Topçuoğlu was a taekwondo coach and champion and served as a national judge for Adana Province. He lived in Adana. He had previously participated in Lifeline 3. Necdet Yıldırım was a member of the İHH from Malatya, and worked at a sports association in Istanbul. Fahri Yaldız was a firefighter and security guard for İHH conferences. He lived in Adıyaman, where he worked as a bodyguard for the Mayor. Cengiz Songür was a textile salesman from İzmir active in Özgür-Der, an Islamist organization. Cengiz Akyüz was a decorator and İHH activist from İskenderun.[126]


The raid also left dozens of activists wounded.[127] Dr. Hazem Farouq, a dentist and Egyptian MP from the Muslim Brotherhood said passengers could not find first aid and did not have material to treat wounds.[128] After the takeover of the ship, injured activists were taken to the roof and treated by IDF medical personnel.[129] According to an IDF doctor, no wounded activists died after they began receiving treatment. Triage was performed in accordance with objective medical criteria, with the result that some activists were treated before soldiers.[129] Israeli Air Force helicopters airlifted thirty-one of the wounded to Israel for emergency treatment. Another 24 injured passengers were diagnosed at Ashdod port and sent to hospitals.[130][77] A total of fifty-five activists were admitted to the Israeli hospitals of Hadassah, Sheba, Rambam, Rabin, and Barzilai. Nine of the activists were in severe condition,[131] and some underwent surgery at Rambam and Sheba hospitals. Several patients were transferred from Rabin Medical Center to Israel Prison Service medical facilities.[132] The Turkish government sent Turkish Red Crescent personnel to Israel to treat the injured. In the following days, most patients were airlifted to Turkey after their conditions stabilized. The Turkish Airlines aircraft transporting them landed at a Turkish Air Force base, after which the injured were taken by ambulance to hospital.[133] Two seriously injured activists remained in an Israeli hospital receiving treatment from Turkish Red Crescent personnel, as their condition was judged too severe to fly them home. Both men were flown to Turkey on 4 June, still in life-threatening condition, and were taken to Atatürk Hospital.[134][135] On 6 June, a wounded Indonesian cameraman was transferred from a hospital in Israel for medical treatment in Amman before being taken back to Indonesia.[136]

In addition to activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, some of the passengers on the five other ships were injured from beatings and less-lethal weaponry, and were hospitalized in Israel.[text 8]

According to testimonies of IDF personnel, several wounded activists refused treatment, stating that they would prefer to die as shaheeds. An IDF doctor testified that in a number of cases wounded activists tried to hamper treatment by removing and tearing off medical equipment. A high-ranking naval officer testified that some of the wounded were unwilling to leave the lounge where they were laying, and that the ship's doctor had told him that there were many wounded individuals who refused to be evacuated, some of them severely injured. Some activists tried to physically block troops from reaching the wounded. IDF soldiers eventually evacuated the activists against their will in order to save their lives.[137] According to some accounts by passengers, IDF soldiers denied medical treatment to several wounded activists who died shortly thereafter.[128][138][139][140]

Israeli military

An injured commando taken captive aboard the Mavi Marmara being treated by a Turkish doctor.[84] Source: Ali Abunimah, Hürriyet

Israel reported that seven soldiers were injured in the clash. Four soldiers were moderately wounded, of which two were initially in critical condition, and an additional three soldiers were lightly wounded. Two of the injured soldiers sustained gunshot wounds. One was shot in the knee, in addition to three fractures and a crack in the hand, a deep cut in the left ear, a stab wound to the chest, internal bleeding, and cuts. The other one was shot in the abdomen. The remaining soldiers sustained varying injuries from beatings and stabbing. One soldier was unconscious for 45 minutes due to head and neck injuries.[10][91][131][141][142]

Two of the injured soldiers who were rescued after jumping overboard were taken to Israel by sea, while the remaining injured soldiers were treated by IDF medical personnel aboard the Mavi Marmara and airlifted to Israel by helicopter. The Israeli commandos wounded in the raid were taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where some required surgery. While in hospital, the soldiers were visited by hundreds of people, including military officials and politicians.[143]

Conclusion of raid

Investigation for onboard weapons

An assortment of the knives, wrenches, and wooden clubs found on the deck of the Marmara, according to the Israeli military

The Israeli military said that in addition to medical aid and construction materials, they found knives, clubs, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks, and night vision goggles aboard the Mavi Marmara.[144] A statement released by Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed that violence against the soldiers was pre-planned, and that "light weaponry" was found on the ships, including pistols that had been seized from IDF commandos. Israel stated that the naval forces "found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces."[145][146] IDF photos displayed daggers, kitchen and pocket knives, metal and wooden poles, flares, wrenches and slingshots with marble projectiles said to have been used against the soldiers.[text 9][147] The activists were said to have also lobbed stun grenades at IDF soldiers, and the IDF furnished video reflecting this.[148] An activist said that it would have been impossible to have firearms on board because "all the boats were carefully inspected by the government before they left the port of departure."[149] Turkish officials supported the activists' account, stating that every passenger that had left Turkey had been searched with X-ray machines and metal detectors before boarding. Senior officials in the Customs Undersecretariat called the Israeli statements tantamount to "complete nonsense".[150]

On 4 June Walla! reported that a senior IDF officer interviewed by Kol Israel radio said that activists threw weapons and firearms into the sea, and that bullet casings that do not match IDF firearms were found on the ship.[text 10][text 11] Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım said activists had rushed some of the soldiers and snatched their weapons, but had thrown them overboard without using them.[151]

Release of footage

The IDF released nearly 20 videos of the incident. Both sides were described as lacking context and confusing the issue of who initiated hostilities[152] The videos were taken from Israeli naval vessels and helicopters using night-vision technology. The videos appeared to show activists hitting soldiers with metal pipes and a chair. A video also showed a soldier being pushed off deck by activists and thrown onto a lower deck headfirst.[153] One video shows each commando being attacked by metal pipes and bats as he was lowered by helicopter. Other videos show activists beating one of the soldiers and trying to kidnap him.[145]

The IDF also showed confiscated footage from the ship's surveillance cameras, which displayed activists preparing for a clash hours before the Israeli Navy made contact with the ship.[145] Footage confiscated from activists also shows them breaking off railings to be used against soldiers prior to the clash. Activist footage showed soldiers boarding from speedboats being attacked with numerous objects including a stun grenade and with water hoses, showed activists attacking soldiers as they rappelled down, and showed one soldier being beaten several times with a metal pipe and then stabbed in the arm.[citation needed] Other videos shot by activists also showed casualties being evacuated below deck, and being treated for wounds.[citation needed]

A video shot on board by documentary maker Iara Lee showed the captain of the boat announcing over the public address system, "Stop your resistance[154] ... They are using live ammunition ... Be calm, be very calm." Gunshots are heard. At the end a woman shouts, "We have no guns here, we are civilians taking care of injured people. Don't use violence, we need help." One of the activists shows the camera a waterproofed booklet allegedly taken from the Israeli commandos listing the names, with photos, of several key people among the passengers. Lee says the video was smuggled off the ship in her underwear due to the Israeli confiscation of all photographic and film material.[155][156][157]

Detention of activists

Following the boardings, Israeli naval forces towed the flotilla's vessels to Ashdod, from where the activists were taken into custody by authorities, pending deportation.[158]

"About 629" activists were detained by the Israel Prisons Service, after they refused to sign deportation orders. A Turkish mother who had brought her one-year-old child with her agreed to extradition after she was advised that prison conditions were "too harsh" for her baby.[159] Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin described the arrests as "kidnapping" and questioned the logic of bringing the detainees to Israel only to deport them there, instead of giving them "unconditional release".[160] 480 activists were detained and 48 were deported immediately.[161] Reacting to intensifying international criticism of the raid, Israeli officials announced that all 680 activists held would be released, including two dozen Israel had threatened earlier to prosecute, charging they had assaulted its troops.[11] Israel began releasing activists on 1 June.[162] On 2 June 124 activists were deported to Jordan and another 200 were taken to Ben Gurion International Airport and flown out of the country.[163] The Israeli military said there were a total of 718 passengers on flotilla; the last one was released by 6 June 2010.[23]

A group of thirteen female activists attacked Immigration Authority personnel accompanying them to the airport for deportation. The activists began to yell and curse while in the police bus taking them to the airport, cursing officers and Israel. When they arrived at the airport, two attacked an officer, trying to push, slap and scratch him while shouting "free Palestine" and "Israel is a terror state". The two were eventually restrained by several officers.[164] According to flotilla activist Fintan Lan Ken, an Irish-American passenger was beaten by security officials at the airport before boarding and had to be hospitalized.[165]

Arab Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi was released on 1 June. She attempted to address the Knesset, but was verbally abused by other lawmakers, who told her to "go to Gaza, traitor." She received multiple death threats by phone and mail, and was placed under armed protection after nearly 500 people signed up to a Facebook page calling for her execution.[138] The Knesset subsequently revoked her parliamentary privileges as a punitive measure, and there were calls for her prosecution.

Four other Israeli Arabs who participated in the flotilla were detained and later released on bail. On 3 June, the Ashkelon Magistrates' Court accepted an appeal for their release with bail, under the conditions that they remain under house arrest until 8 June, and do not leave the country for 45 days.[166]

Some the activists claimed they were beaten during interrogations.[167] Mattias Gardell also said there was sleep deprivation[168] and that he was beaten several times.[169] They also said that treatment depended on their skin colour, ethnicity and if they had a Muslim sounding name.[168][170] One activist said they were not allowed to contact lawyers and were videotaped throughout.[108] According to Henning Mankell, Israeli authorities confiscated their money, credit cards, mobile phones, laptops, cameras, and personal belongings including clothes. They were only allowed to keep papers.[108][171] Several passengers had charges made to their confiscated debit cards and cell phones. Israel pledged to investigate the issue.[172] An IDF officer and three soldiers were subsequently arrested by Israeli Military Police and charged with stealing laptops and mobile phones from passengers.[173]

Delivery of cargo

Military camouflage discovered amidst cargo
Expired medicine amidst cargo

Israel said humanitarian aid confiscated from the ships would be transferred to Gaza, but that it would not transfer banned items such as cement.[45] At the same briefing, they said that they found construction equipment, including concrete and metal rods, that were not allowed into Gaza. The IDF said that all of the equipment on board was examined and none of it was in shortage in Gaza.[174] According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, Hamas refused to allow the humanitarian aid into Gaza until Israeli authorities released all flotilla detainees and allowed building materials, which are thought to make up 8,000 of the 10,000 tons of the goods, to reach them.[175][176][177] Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, "We are not seeking to fill our (bellies), we are looking to break the Israeli siege on Gaza."[178]

Israeli newspapers commented that the situation must not be all that bad if Palestinians refused the aid. Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan responded: "We will not take any blood stained aid", and "If we accept the delivery of aid then we are legitimizing Israel's violent actions." Yet allowing: "If the Turks ask us to let the aid shipments in, we would do it."[179] On 17 June 2010, Palestinian authorities accepted the delivery of the cargo under UN supervision and coordination.[180] However, Israel stated it "will not transfer to Gaza the weapons and military equipment it had found aboard the Mavi Marmara."[144]

Return of ships

At midday on 31 May 2010[158] Israeli Navy tugboats towed ships of the aid convoy to the Israeli port of Ashdod,[181] where the ships were impounded by Israeli authorities. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen requested "the immediate release of the detained civilians and ships held by Israel."[182] Of the seven ships detained in Israel, three of the Turkish-owned ships were unconditionally returned. The Israeli Defense Ministry reported that two of the remaining four ships were claimed, but proof of ownership wasn't provided. Nobody claimed ownership of the remaining two ships, and Israel tried to locate the owners.[183]


The UN

On 31 May Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asked US President Barack Obama to veto any UN Security Council condemnation of Israel, but the president refused.[184] At the UN Security Council, the US did however block demands for an international inquiry into the raid (similar to Richard Goldstone's inquiry into the Gaza war) and the criticism of Israel for allegedly violating international law, as proposed by Turkey, Palestine and Arab nations.[185] Later the UN stated that Israel used excessive force and boarded the flotilla when it was far away from the blockade zone.[186]

In July 2011, the UN investigative committee said that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was legal, but that Israel used excessive force and should have waited to enforce the blockade closer to the shoreline. It also concluded that Turkey should have taken action to try to prevent the flotilla from taking place.[187]


On 2 June, Israel released over 600 of the detained activists.[188] On 4 June, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a decision of attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein to halt the police investigation of the incident.[189] On 5 June, the Israeli government's press division apologized for circulating a link to the satiric "We Con the World" video that mocked activists on board, satirizing their purportedly peaceful intentions. On 13 June, Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a trip to France amidst threats of charges against Barak and other Israeli officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction.[190] On 16 June, Israel added İHH to its terror watch list.[191]

Palestinian territories

In July 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas officials cited the raid on a flotilla as evidence that there is "more to gain" from the international condemnation produced by Israel's use of force than by attacking Israel. Aziz Dweik, "a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank", said "When we use violence, we help Israel win international support. The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."[192]


Egypt opened its Rafah Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter following international criticism of the raid and a call for the border to be opened by Hamas's leader Khaled Meshaal. It is not clear how long it will remain open. According to an Egyptian security source, construction materials such as concrete and steel are still required to be transported via Israel's border crossings.[193]


On 4 June, a Turkish state-run news agency reported a possible trial against Israel in which the Turkish autopsy report would be used as evidence. On 29 June the İHH claimed that the attack on the flotilla was planned.[194] Lawyers representing the Turkish victims and IHH wrote to Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking to prosecute the Israelis involved. Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, the lawyer said the Mavi Marmara was sailing under flag of the Comoros and many Turks were on board, and both these countries were signatories.[195]


Domestic reactions

In Israel, the Israel Police and Israel Prison Service were placed on high alert throughout the country, residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip were ordered to prepare their bomb shelters, and a number of checkpoints were set up along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. The IDF placed units along the northern and southern borders on alert, and called up reservists. Roads towards the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and other controversial areas were blocked by police.[196]

Israeli groups have suggested 'reverse flotillas' to sail to Turkey, which would bring attention to Turkey's alleged history of oppression in Kurdistan and their attempts to suppress recognition of the Armenian Genocide.[197]

International reactions

Protesters pray before the demonstration against Gaza flotilla raid, Istanbul, May 31, 2010
Demonstration in Gothenburg, Sweden on 31 May 2010.

The United Nations Security Council condemned "those acts which resulted in the loss of lives" and called for a prompt investigation conforming to international standards.[188][198][199][200] The UN Human Rights Council called the attack outrageous and dispatched a fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law.[201][202] Unofficial responses included civilian demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur,[203] Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon,[204] Istanbul,[205] Athens and Stockholm.[206] British Prime Minister David Cameron described the Israeli offensive as "completely unacceptable."[207]

Israel–Turkey relations reached a low point after the incident. Turkey recalled its ambassador, cancelled joint military exercises, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harshly referred to the raid as a "bloody massacre" and "state terrorism", and harshly criticized Israel in a speech before the Grand National Assembly.[text 12] The Turkish Grand National Assembly held a debate on whether to impose sanctions on Israel, and eventually came out with a statement criticizing the attack as illegal, demanding that Israel apologize, pay compensation, and prosecute those involved, and calling on the Turkish government to review ties with Israel and take "effective measures". The flotilla raid was among the issues discussed during a security meeting of Turkish military commanders chaired by Prime Minister Erdoğan.[208]

Several entertainers canceled appearances in Israel.[209] Iran's Red Crescent organised an aid shipment that was called off after being informed that Egypt would prevent it from passing through the Suez Canal.[210] B. Lynn Pascoe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, cautioned "such convoys were not helpful in resolving Gaza's basic economic problems and needlessly carried the potential for escalation".[211] "Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes", the United Nations spokesman said, prior to new Lebanese ships sailing to Gaza on 23 July 2010, "There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza."[212] Israel's United Nations Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said in letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about new Gaza-bound ships: "Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the ... naval blockade".[213]

The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, a Libyan charity organization headed by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, chartered the MV Amalthea to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The ship carried food, medical supplies[214] and pre-fabricated houses[215] and docked at the port of El Arish, Egypt on 14 July,[216] from where the supplies were reportedly to be taken to Gaza by road. The humanitarian aid and supplies were donated by Greek companies and charities.[214]

Easing of Gaza blockade

Following the raid, Israel faced mounting international calls to ease or lift its blockade.[217][218] On 17 June, Israeli Prime Minister's Office announced a decision to relax the blockade.[219] This announcement received a cool response from the international community.[220]

Three days later, Israel's Security Cabinet approved a new system governing the blockade that would allow practically all non-military or dual-use items to enter the Gaza strip. Israel stated it would expand the transfer of construction materials designated for projects that have been approved by the Palestinian Authority as well as projects that are under international supervision.[221] Despite the easing of the land blockade, Israel announced that it would continue to inspect at the port of Ashdod all goods bound for Gaza by sea. Internationally, this decision received mixed reactions.[217]

As of November 2010, Israel has failed to satisfy the commitment it made in June to ease its blockade of the Gaza strip, according to Catherine Ashton, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Ashton announced that inadequate amounts of goods are entering Gaza to meet Gaza's humanitarian and reconstruction needs. Ashton also called for Israel to permit entry of construction material that UNRWA requested to rebuild schools and to Israel to allow exports from Gaza.[222]


Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, reiterated his demands for a United Nations investigation. He said: "We have no trust at all that Israel, a country that has carried out such an attack on a civilian convoy in international waters, will conduct an impartial investigation. To have a defendant acting simultaneously as both prosecutor and judge is not compatible with any principle of law."[223][224]

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on June 5 that the IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara should be investigated by a New Zealand-led committee, with Israeli and Turkish deputies.[224] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped the Israeli-led process would put an end to efforts in the United Nations to set up an international inquiry, which many Israelis fear would be biased. In Israel and around the world, some said the committee lacked sufficient credibility and investigative powers.[225] White House backed Israeli internal inquiry into Gaza flotilla deaths and said that the Israeli inquiry meets the standard of "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation".[226] U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking in Luxembourg, stressed the need for "a truly independent inquiry and a thorough investigation that the international community can respect."[227] Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor told Turkish media that there "will be international elements in the commission which is going to be formed".[228]

The Israeli government said it would accept a limited role by non-Israelis in the investigation of the raid,[229] but rejected an independent international inquiry,[230][231][232] and said the country is able to conduct a credible review on its own.[233] Analysts suggested that after the controversial UN-sponsored Goldstone Report, Israel lacks faith that the United Nations can do a credible job of investigating events related to Israel.[234] An internal Israeli police investigation was halted by Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.[189] A group of Israeli Navy reserve officers issued a letter backing the call for an independent investigation.[235]

The Turkel Commission

Following the raid, Israel's government set up the Turkel Commission, a commission of inquiry headed by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, to investigate the raid. It was chaired by Justice Turkel, and had four members: Shabtai Rosenne, Professor of International Law at Bar-Ilan University, Amos Horev, a retired Israeli Major-General and President of the Technion Institute of Technology, Miguel Deutch, Professor of Law at Tel Aviv University, and Reuven Merhav, former Director-General of the Foreign Ministry. Rosenne died at age 93 during the Commission's work, and was not replaced. The commission had two non-voting foreign observers: Former First Minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, and former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces Ken Watkin, both of whom were friendly to Israel according to the BBC and Der Spiegel.[236][237] The Committee also contracted the services of two foreign international law experts: Professors Wolf Heintschel von Heineg and Michael Schmitt.

The inquiry was charged with investigating the legality of the Gaza blockade, the legality of the Israeli Navy's actions during the raid, and determining whether investigations of claims of war crimes and breaches of international law conformed to Western standards. The Committee was also charged with investigating the Turkish position, and the actions taken by flotilla participants, especially the IHH, and examining the identities and intentions of the flotilla's participants.

During the investigation, the Committee heard the testimonies of two flotilla passengers and two Israeli human rights activists. The Committee requested the assistance of the Turkish Embassy in Israel in finding the Captain of the Mavi Marmara so he could be invited to testify. The request was denied, with the response being that the Committee could look at the testimony of the Captain contained in the Turkish report. The Committee also issued an open invitation to all passengers and crew to testify, and requested assistance from the Turkish Embassy in Israel in building a list of prospective witnesses, but received no immediate reply.[238] The Committee also heard the testimonies of three politicians including the Prime Minister, three IDF officials (one testified twice), two government bureaucrats, and a Prison official.

The 300-page Turkel Committee report[239] found the actions of the Israeli Navy in the raid and Israel's naval blockade of Gaza were both legal under international law,[240][241] and accused a group of "IHH activists" of having armed themselves and conducting hostilities "in an organized manner".[242]

Turkey and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Israeli investigation, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated the demand for an independent investigation, stating that the Israeli investigation will not have international credibility.

The Turkish Inquiry

Turkey also established an inquiry into the events, which found, in contrast to the Israeli inquiry, the blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. After the Turkish inquiry, Turkey described the raid as a violation of international law, "tantamount to banditry and piracy", and described the killings of activists as "state-sponsored terrorism".[241] Concerning the Israeli inquiry, Turkey said its own commission was "surprised, appalled and dismayed that the national inquiry process in Israel has resulted in the exoneration of the Israeli armed forces".[243]

UNHRC fact-finding mission

On 23 July 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council launched an independent fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law that may have occurred during the flotilla raid.[244] Israel refused to allow the panel to interview Israeli witnesses and accused the UNHRC of a history of anti-Israel bias.[35]

In its first report, submitted in September 2010, the UN fact-finding mission found that the IDF broke international law, and that there was evidence sufficient to initiate prosecutions for breaches of the Geneva Convention. The report stated that: "The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,"[245] and determined that Israeli commandos summarily executed six passengers aboard the MV Mavi Marmara.[35][120] It cites forensic analysis indicating that Furgan Dogan was shot five times, including once in the face while he was lying on his back. "All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body except for the face wound, which entered the right of his nose", the report concluded. "According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point-blank range."[35]

The report stated: "There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health".[245][246] The report also stated that it found no medical evidence of IDF commandos being shot.[35] It recommended that Israel pay reparations, and also described Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as "totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st century".

The United States expressed concern about the tone, content and conclusions of the report, while the European Union said that it should be transferred to the UN Secretary-General's investigation.[247] On 29 September 2010 the UN Human Rights Council voted to endorse the report, with 30 of the 47 countries voting in favor, the United States voting against, and 15 countries, including EU members, abstaining.[35]

UN Palmer Report

On 2 August 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. would conduct an investigation of the incident. Geoffrey Palmer, former prime minister of New Zealand, presided over the committee.[248][249] The four-member panel also included Álvaro Uribe, outgoing Colombian president, as vice chair, and one representative each from Israel and Turkey. The panel started its work on 10 August 2010. The terms of reference for the 'method of work' of the inquiry were given by Ban Ki Moon they are outlined in the report as follows: "The Panel is not a court. It was not asked to make determinations of the legal issues or to adjudicate on liability ... The Panel was required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States ... the limitation is important. It means that the Panel cannot make definitive findings either of fact or law. The information for the Panel's work came primarily through its interactions with the Points of Contact designated by Israel and Turkey."[250] In a statement, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the country had nothing to hide and that it was in its interest that the truth of the events come to light throughout the world.[251]

The report was published on 2 September 2011[252][253] after being delayed, reportedly to allow Israel and Turkey to continue reconciliation talks.[254] The commission determined Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip to be legal,[255] but stated that the "decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable." The commission questioned the motivations of the Flotilla stating that "There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH".[256] The commission recognized that the IDF were met with "organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers" upon boarding the vessel and therefore force was necessary for purposes of self defense,[257] but stated that "the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable".[4]

Of those killed, the report noted, "no evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons". It further noted that "at least one of those killed, Furkan Dogan, was shot at extremely close range. Mr. Dogan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect." Israel's failure to provide an explanation for or details on this and the other nine deaths was criticized.[258]

In regards to the Gaza blockade, the commission writes:

"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza...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."[257]

The report was also critical of the flotilla, describing it as "reckless". Turkey was reportedly criticized as well for not doing more to persuade flotilla participants to avoid armed conflict with Israeli soldiers.[257] Finally, the report presented the following as rapprochement, i.e., for the re-establishment of cordial relations between Turkey and Israel:

"An appropriate statement of regret should be made by Israel in respect of the incident in light of its consequences. Israel should offer payment for the benefit of the deceased and injured victims and their families...Turkey and Israel should resume full diplomatic relations..."

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said "We think it was a fair and balanced report", and that Israel would not apologize to Turkey.[259] The Israeli Prime Minister's office stated that Israel has adopted the report, except for its conclusions regarding the use of force in the flotilla raid.[260] Turkey criticized the report for accepting Israel's blockade as legal, and Turkey's president Abdullah Gul said his country considered the report "null and void".[261] Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said the UN hadn't endorsed the Palmer report and that Turkey was going to challenge the legality of the blockade in the International Court of Justice.[262]

Other investigations

Turkey's Istanbul Bakırköy prosecutor's office, assisted by the Ankara prosecutor's office, has opened a criminal investigation. Possible charges, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, would include murder, injury, attacking Turkish citizens, and piracy.[263] A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said, "We will look into the circumstances of the death of an American citizen, as we would do anywhere in the world at all times", noting that the FBI could get involved, "working with the host government", "if we think a crime has been committed".[264]

The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, has complained that Israel is validating its own account by selectively using the seized video and equipment from reporters on board. FPA also criticized Israel's use of captured material without permission.[233] Journalist Paul McGeough told his consul-general "we were robbed of any electronic equipment that we had" and that "Fairfax will fight this .. I could be back in Israel within two weeks to contest this."[265] Israeli public radio reported that authorities had banned the media from providing any information about the dead and wounded, and who was taken to hospital in Israel. The censorship order was later lifted.[266]

Legal assessments

International law experts differed over the legality of the Israeli action in published assessments following the raid. Legal commentators generally agreed that Israel was required to respond with a proportional use of force in the face of violent resistance, but the degree of proportionality was disputed.[41][267]

A fact-finding mission of the UNHRC claimed that Israel had broken international law.[245] The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the Israeli raid, saying it involved disproportionate use of force and that the Gaza blockade was illegal.[268] Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University said that the "ships that were situated in the high seas where freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas".[269] Anthony D'Amato, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, said the raid was illegal and that a legitimate blockade would have required a state of war between Israel and Hamas, which he said was not the case.[41][270]

In September 2011, a United Nations report concluded that the Israeli blockade was legal, but that the Israeli action was "excessive".[271]

Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner, and Johns Hopkins international law Professor Ruth Wedgwood, said that the naval blockade and the boarding in international waters were in accord with long-standing international law, and comparable to other blockades in unrelated, historical conflicts.[272] Dershowitz and Posner also defended the specific use of force as legal.


Valley of the Wolves: Palestine is a 2011 Turkish action fiction film directed by Zübeyr Şaşmaz. The film, which is part of the Valley of the Wolves media franchise based on the Turkish television series of the same name and is a sequel to Valley of the Wolves Iraq (2006) and Valley of the Wolves: Gladio (2008), sees Polat Alemdar (Necati Şaşmaz) and his team go to Israel/Palestine to track down the Israeli military commander responsible for the Gaza flotilla raid.[273]


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References with quoted text or translations
  1. ^ NY Daily News editorial and part 2 of the same article from 30 January 2011 reads: "Forty passengers stood apart and were led by the chief of IHH. Five of those who were later killed by Israeli forces had professed a desire to become shaheeds, or martyrs. One said: 'Two good things will happen: Either we will die as shaheeds or we will reach Gaza.' In a video, another said: 'I pray that Allah grant us the same good end as those shaheeds.'" The article is concluded with "Only through hard fighting – fighting that was necessary, justified and legal – were the prisoners freed. IHH wanted a confrontation and got one." The article's claims were substantiated by two short video clippings from Al Jazeera interviews and articles in advance of the raid. The activists are seen chanting a Muslim holy war song, and a woman explained that there are two ways to go: As a martyr or to get through to Gaza. Following the raid, the claims where further substantiated by recorded family members of the killed activists, telling of the martyrdom that the killed activists where wishing on themselves.
  2. ^ Lee raw footage video 2010 begins with discussion of Haneen Zoabi Arab Israeli member of Israeli parliament. Minute [39:06] shows activist acknowledging the paintball and looking at the laser pointers. [41:13] First Israeli commando team landing on top deck. [45:48] "They're holding two soldiers down here bleeding and wounded". [46:18] two of the wounded not checked. Later [51:18] preventing the entrance to the ships internals. [53:30] Wounded getting wrong treatment by activist "fake doctor". [54:48] beginning of treatment, shirt is ripped off, real doctor puts finger on injury and says: "Blastick".
  3. ^ Akyol, Taha (18 August 2010). "Türkiye'ye-yakışmıyor [Not with Turkey]" (in Turkish). Milliyet. Retrieved 18 August 2010. "Türkiye Birinci Dünya Savaşı'ndan sonra ilk defa askeri bir saldırıya uğradı ve 9 can verdi! Biz böyle görüyoruz. İsrail bunu kavramalı, Türkiye'nin dostluğunu kaybetmenin ne demek olacağını idrak etmelidir! [Turkey has been attacked for the first time since World War I and lost 9 lives. This is our view. Israel should understand this and should realize what it means to lose Turkey's friendship!]" 
  4. ^ Schult, Christoph; Steinvorth, Daniel (16 June 2010). "Chip im Slip [Rambo in panties]" (in German). Der Spiegel.,1518,700808,00.html. Retrieved 16 June 2010. "Regierungen in aller Welt forderten Israel auf, den Vorfall durch internationale Ermittler klären zu lassen, doch Premier Benjamin Netanjahu wollte davon nichts wissen – und hat nun eine interne Kommission eingesetzt. [Governments all over the world have urged Israel to have international investigators examine the incident, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to consider this – and has appointed an internal commission.]" 
  5. ^ Breiner, Joshua (1 June 2010). "מיוחד – כתב וואלה! עם כוחות השייטת בלב ים [Special: Walla! Reporter With Navy Forces On The High Seas]" (in Hebrew). Walla!. Retrieved 10 June 2011. "על התדר הפתוח, יכלו כל ספינות המשט לשמוע את האזהרות. והן גם דאגו להחזיר. 'תחזרו לאושוויץ', ענתה ספינה אחת, אחרת השיבה ב'ג'יהאד, ג'יהאד, ג'יהאד'. המפגש האלים היה בלתי נמנע. [On the open channel, all the flotilla ships could hear the warnings. They also took care to reply. 'Go back to Auschwitz', answered one ship, and another responded, 'Jihad, jihad, jihad'. The violent clash was inevitable.]" 
  6. ^ Yağcı, Cahide Hayrunnisa (1 June 2010). "İsrail yaralılara müdaheleye izin vermedi! [Israel did not allow attention to the wounded!]" (in Turkish). Timeturk. Retrieved 4 June 2010. "O sırada gaz maskelerimizi ve şişme yeleklerimizi takmamızı ilan ettiler. [At that moment they announced that we should put on our gas masks and the life jackets.]" 
  7. ^ Damolin, Mario (5 June 2010). "Wer nicht weicht, wird aus dem Weg geräumt [Anyone who does not move out of the way is thrust aside]" (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 6 June 2010. "Mit gezogenen Waffen gehen sie auf unbewaffnete Zivilisten zu. Wer nicht weicht, wie etwa der große, gemütliche Michalis, ein 65 Jahre alter Kleinunternehmer, wird auf kürzeste Distanz aus dem Weg geräumt. Michalis fällt wie vom Blitz getroffen neben mir um, als ihn Soldat Nr. 14 – alle haben Nummern – aus zehn Zentimetern Entfernung mit der Elektroschock-Pistole anschießt. [With their weapons drawn they approach unarmed civilians. Anyone who does not move out of the way, like big, jovial Michalis, a 65-year-old small-time entrepreneur, is thrust aside at close quarters. Michalis drops to the ground as if struck by lightning as soldier no. 14 – all of them bear numbers – tasers him from a distance of 10 centimetres (4 in).]" 
  8. ^ González, E.; Carbajosa, A. (1 June 2010). "Israel asalta la legalidad internacional [Israel raided international law]" (in Spanish). El País. Retrieved 15 June 2011. "Al menos una parte de la versión del Ministerio de Defensa israelí resulta poco creíble: en las otras naves, donde supuestamente nadie opuso resistencia, también hubo heridos, como pudo comprobar este periódico hablando brevemente con algunos de ellos mientras eran ingresados en camilla en un hospital de Ashkelon. [At least one piece of the account from the Israeli Ministry of Defence is scarcely believable: in the other ships, where nobody apparently offered any physical resistance, there were also some wounded people, as this newspaper was able to verify by briefly talking to some of the passengers when they were being admitted on stretchers to a hospital in Ashkelon.]" 
  9. ^ Rößler, Hans-Christian (5 June 2010). "Holzstöcke zu Eisenstangen [Wooden staves to iron bars]" (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 5 June 2010. "Als Anschauungsmaterial für die Gewaltbereitschaft der Aktivisten verbreitete die Armee später Bilder von Holz- und Eisenstangen, Steinschleudern, Murmeln, aber auch Schraubenschlüsseln und einer Reihe von Messern, wie sie in jedem größeren Haushalt zu finden sind. [As support for the claim that the activists were ready for violence, the army later published images of wooden staves and iron bars, slingshots, marbles, but also screwdrivers and a set of knives such as can be found in any larger household.]" 
  10. ^ "Report: Soldiers were kidnapped and released at the battle over Marmara" (in Hebrew). Walla!. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011. "קצין בחיל אמר הבוקר ל'קול ישראל', כי ישנן עדויות לכך, שנוסעי הספינה 'מרמרה' השליכו כלי נשק לים וכי על הספינה נמצאו כוונת של רובה ותרמילי כדורים, שאינם תואמים כלי נשק של צה'ל. [This morning, an army officer told Israel Radio that there is evidence that the Marmara passengers dumped firearms into the sea and, because bullet casings were found on the ship, that they were not compatible with Israeli Army weapons.]" 
  11. ^ Harel 2010. "[Senior IDF navy officers said:] ... The soldiers reported that the activists had fired on them during the confrontation... After the incident, 9 mm bullet casings were found of a kind not used by the naval commandos."
  12. ^ Wurzel, Steffen (1 June 2010). "Ab heute ist nichts mehr, wie es war [From today on, nothing is anymore as it used to be]" (in German). Tagesschau. Retrieved 4 June 2010. "Die türkisch-israelischen Beziehungen sind nach der Militäraktion Israels auf dem Tiefpunkt. 'Staatsterrorismus' warf der türkische Ministerpräsident Erdogan Israel vor und sagte in einer Rede vor Parteifreunden voraus: 'Ab heute ist nichts mehr wie es war.' Von antisemitischen Tönen distanzierte er sich klar. [After Israel's military action, the Turkish-Israeli relations have reached a low. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan accused Israel of 'state terrorism' and predicted in a speech to party members: 'From today on, nothing is anymore as it used to be.' He distanced himself clearly from antisemitical tones.]" 

Further reading

  • Bayoumi, Moustafa (Editor), (2010) Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israeli/Palestine Conflict. Haymarket Books, ISBN 978-1608461219

External links

Israeli response
Activist response

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