Agence France Presse (AFP)
July 7, 2011 - 12:00am

UNITED NATIONS — A UN rapporteur Thursday slammed a highly anticipated UN report said to back a 2010 Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla aiming to break the Gaza blockade which left nine people dead.

"The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof. Olivier De Schutter, has received a draft of this report and he firmly opposes its conclusions," De Schutter's office said in an email.

He was preparing "a statement where he denounces the conclusions" of the report by a UN commission which the UN chief is expected to release on Friday, it said.

"Tomorrow, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will release a statement supporting the legality of the Israeli intervention against the 2010 'Gaza Freedom Flotilla,'" the email said.

"According to Olivier De Schutter, the blockade and the Israeli intervention clearly violate international law and the human right to food," it added.

Later Thursday, De Schutter's communication assistant Frederic Janssens sent a new email saying he would "like to clarify" that the UN rapporteur "has not made any public statement" but would "make his views known in due course."

Last year's bloody May 31 showdown when Israeli commandos raided a six-ship pro-Palestinian flotilla leaving nine Turkish activists dead triggered global outrage, amid accusations that Israel had been too heavy-handed.

A UN Human Rights Council report released in September said there was "clear evidence to support prosecutions" of crimes including "willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment" against Israel over the raid.

Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the deaths, but Israel has refused so far to go further than to express its regret.

Israel-Turkey talks meant to repair strained ties have collapsed, an Israeli official said on Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a compromise.

The UN report had been expected to be released Thursday, the Israeli official said, but publication was delayed, ostensibly because Ban is traveling in Europe, but in reality to give Israel and Turkey time to reach a deal.

No further talks were scheduled however, the official said.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper said the report lists faults by both sides in their handling of the issue.

The Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara was leading a flotilla of activists seeking to reach the coastal Palestinian territory in defiance of Israeli orders to turn back, when Israeli marines stormed it, killing the nine Turks.

The Israeli official said the UN commission of inquiry, chaired by former New Zealand premier Brian Palmer, found that the blockade, which Israel says is essential to stop arms reaching the strip's militant Islamic Hamas rulers, was legal.

Turkey has argued that it was not.

The news of the report's release came as Israel battened down the hatches at its main airport awaiting hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters after a new flotilla bid to ship aid to the Gaza Strip was scuttled.

Organizers of the 10-ship aid flotilla said the lone boat to sneak out of a Greek port was caught Thursday by the coast guard in Crete.

In a new move though, 600 or so activists were jetting in by air planning to spend a week visiting Palestinian families, with organizers saying they have "totally peaceful intentions."

But Israeli authorities appeared to be gearing up for a confrontation, with hundreds of police on standby around the airport.


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