Ma'an News Agency (Analysis)
September 2, 2011 - 12:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A UN report on Israel's deadly raid against a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza has found that the naval blockade was legal but commandos used excessive force in the May 2010 incident.

The New York Times, citing a leaked copy of the document to be released Friday, reported that it found Israel used "excessive and unreasonable force" after meeting "violent resistance" from some of the passengers.

Israel and Turkey have been in dispute over an apology for the May 31, 2010 raid in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

Former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer led the UN-mandated investigation into the raid on the flotilla that was attempting to take aid to the Gaza Strip through an Israeli blockade.

Diplomatic relations in brink

The release of the report has been delayed several times this year. Turkey has demanded an apology for the deaths, Israel has refused and there had been no agreement on the final version of the report.

Palmer's report recommends Israel provide Turkey "an appropriate statement of regret" and pay compensation for deaths and injuries, but neither side has accepted this formula.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday on the fringes of the Libya Contact Group meeting in Paris, where she urged Turkey to prevent further deterioration of its relations with Israel, according to a report on Israel Radio.

Davutoglu had warned on Thursday that diplomats would launch "Plan B", and referred to possible sanctions, if Israel fails to apologize when the report is published, in an interview with Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

The foreign minister said in a press conference Friday that its demands remain unchanged.

On Friday, Israeli daily Haaretz cited senior foreign ministry officials saying Turkey could expel Israel's ambassador and downgrade diplomatic relations, as Israeli officials told the press that no apology would be issued.

Report finds fault on both sides

The report criticized "Israel’s 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."

But it accused the flotilla of "acting recklessly" by attempting to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Events surrounding the deaths of nine passengers remain contested.

While the report finds "most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range" and this has "not been adequately accounted for" by Israel, it adds that forces met violent resistance from passengers requiring self-protection.

Report writers said they could not determine whether Israeli commandos used live fire before landing on the vessel, a key point of contention.

Israel and Turkey spar over conclusions

In responses from both countries included in the report, Israel and Turkey rejected its findings.

But as the leaked report emerged, the countries attempted to emphasize the conclusions seen as more favorable to their governments.

Einat Wilf, an Israeli lawmaker and member of the Knesset foreign affairs commission, told AFP the report "clearly exonerates Israel on the main issues regarding the legality of the blockade, the legality of stopping incoming ships in international waters and the existence of violence, resistance to the Israeli soldiers."

An Israeli official who declined to be identified told AFP on Friday: "We will announce our acceptance of the report after its official publication, with specific reservations."

Meanwhile, Turkish officials insisted on focusing on Israel's refusal to apologize.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017