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January 24, 2011

Gaza blockade legal, Israeli commission finds

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel/article/gaza_blockade_legal_turkel_commission_finds_20110123

The Israeli commission of inquiry into the Israeli Navy’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla found that the naval blockade of Gaza does not break international law.

The Turkel Commission also found that Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense on board the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.

The commission, formally known as the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of May 31, 2010, on Sunday released part of the report, which runs nearly 300 pages and deals with Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza, the Israel Defense Force’s actions in enforcing the blockade, and the actions of the activists attempting to break the blockade.

Another part will deal with whether Israel’s examination and investigation system regarding infringements of the laws of warfare are in accordance with international law.

The commission includes four appointed members from Israel—one died during the proceedings—as well as two foreign observers: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lord David Trimble from Ireland and Brigadier General (Ret.) Kenneth Watkin of Canada.

The committee heard the testimony of 27 witnesses over the course of 15 days of open proceedings and the testimony of 12 witnesses behind closed doors.

The report found that Israel’s enforcement of the naval and overland blockade complies with international law, including its attention to humanitarian conditions. The report did suggest, however, that Israel should find ways to focus its sanctions on Hamas while not harming the civilian population. The report also suggested that Israel find ways to improve the delivery of medical care to Gazans.

The report’s conclusion read, in part, that “The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip—in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations—was legal pursuant to the rules of international law. The actions carried out by Israel on May 31, 2010, to enforce the naval blockade had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries. Nonetheless, and despite the limited number of uses of force for which we could not reach a conclusion, the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law.”

The report will be turned over to a United Nations panel investigating the May 31 incident. Turkey has already submitted a report that says Israel is completely at fault for the incident.

“I hope that all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and against its soldiers will read these reports and learn the truth about what happened,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at an international Holocaust Memorial Day event. “The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives.This is not only their right; it is their duty. The State of Israel stands behind them and thanks them for their courage.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “The flotilla to Gaza set out to provoke, having no connection to humanitarian aid. The State of Israel will continue to be dedicated to its sovereignty, security and right to defend itself and its citizens everywhere, anytime and in any way necessary.”

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